Four Reasons why PDAC 2017 was worth attending

PDAC 2017

By Benoit Froment, Director North America for IsoMetrix.

Attendance at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) 2017 Convention totalled 24 161 – a strong indication that confidence has returned to the mineral exploration and mining industry.

For the second consecutive year, IsoMetrix attended the annual PDAC Convention in Toronto, Canada. The world’s largest mining industry event boasted thousands of exhibitors and attendees from 125 countries, as well as technical sessions, short courses and networking events. Here are four reasons why PDAC 2017 was worth attending:

1. Sustainability is playing a growing role

For the eighth consecutive year, PDAC organized a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Event Series. The CSR Event Series aimed to facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue and peer-learning on key issues related to responsible exploration and mining. Most of those sessions were packed.

The Series highlighted practical cases of how companies are working to improve their sustainability performance during mineral exploration and development, presenting challenges and successes, as well as lessons learned. It also highlighted the role of government and the financial industry in creating an enabling environment for responsible exploration and mining. Here are some of the sessions I attended:

a) Redefining mining’s social contract: This session talked about the factors that influence the dynamics of trust between the mining industry and its host societies. It was an important discussion on how governments, civil society, and mining companies can work together to respond to challenges and refine mining’s social contract in a manner that helps to build trust.

b) Good security practices for social conflicts: This session examined the incidence of conflict in the extractive sector and how companies, in response to perceived social risks, develop security practices. Good practices include engaging local communities and government players in the security process and building formal and informal relationships to improve conflict mitigation.

c) The economic multiplier effect of mining: Like governments and communities, the mining industry has recognized the shared value proposition of hiring and sourcing supply and services locally. However, while the potential is clear, the reality is that there is a wide range of success across mining countries to harness the mining industry as an engine for employment and local economic development. This session explored the contribution of the mining industry to employment creation and local economic development.

2. Technology is the future of mining

The increasing importance and reliance on technology to streamline critical information cannot be denied. For mining companies, relaying accurate environmental, health, safety and social (EHSS) data is crucial to meeting regulatory requirements and managing stakeholder expectations. Inconsistencies in how data is collected, centralized and organized however mean its true value risks getting lost at critical points in an asset’s lifecycle.

More than $400 billion is at stake in this “Uberization of mining,” the conference was told. Michelle Ash, Chief Innovation Officer at Barrick Gold Corp. was one of the first in the industry to recognize the importance of embracing digital disruption. Barrick collaborated with tech giant Cisco to implement new approaches in mining, starting with small changes such as bringing Wi-Fi into the mines so that workers can call operations headquarters if there are problems on site.

Barrick is ramping up toward more complicated technologies, such as artificial intelligence, real-time data collection and virtual reality. Ash said such innovations could reduce costs by about one-third.

The mining industry has long thought disruption is difficult because of the cost barriers of getting in, but technology is increasingly making mines more small-scale operations, reducing the barriers to entry, she added.

Luis Canepari, vice-president of information technology at Goldcorp Inc., said Goldcorp is undergoing its own digital transformation, experimenting with real-time data and autonomous vehicles, and is opening its doors to start-ups that might never have been considered before.

Data has the power to help companies make quick, strategic and customized decisions. When used properly, mining companies have the ability to turn their EHSS challenges into opportunities and manage potential risks.

3. It is the best place to network

PDAC brings together thousands of exhibitors and attendees from 125 countries around a massive exhibition, presentations, technical sessions and short courses. Every place, every event is a good opportunity to meet your peers, clients, prospects, partners and friends. Even breakfasts, lunches and dinners are converted into networking events.

I attended the “Charting our Sustainability Journey” event organized by our partner Sabrina Dias Consulting. Sabrina Dias and her associates organized a Sustainability breakfast at the historic site of the National Club of Toronto. Their senior advisor, Jacques Gérin, who is also the former President of Hatch-Québec and Vice President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), shared his thoughts on the past, present and future of sustainability in mining.

More than 60 persons took this great opportunity to talk about the evolution of Sustainable Development in Mining and connect with their peers.

4. PDAC is the thermometer of the mining industry

Finally, PDAC just reflects the health of the mining industry. “The mineral exploration and mining industry is cyclical in nature and has faced a variety of economic challenges over the past several years, but optimism has always remained and it’s fantastic to see this being reflected at the PDAC convention,” says PDAC President Glenn Mullan, referring to sold out exhibitor space, investor meetings, short courses, Mineral Outlook luncheon, and awards gala. “There was an upbeat vibe throughout the convention – a positive sign for the sector going forward. And, it is promising for all of us,” said Glenn.

IsoMetrix has expanded into the North American market with offices in Toronto and Atlanta, and continues to enjoy rapid growth in the region. IsoMetrix is positioned to provide the mining industry with technological solutions for Social Sustainability, Social Licence to Operate, Health, Safety and Environment (EHS), and Environmental Sustainability.

Sources:
http://www.pdac.ca/convention/programming/csr-event-series
http://www.pdac.ca/convention/programming/presentation-reception-rooms/sessions/presentation-reception-rooms/the-uberization-of-mining-and-metals