03/08/2004 - 22:00

Miners keep pressure on

03/08/2004 - 22:00


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The annual Diggers and Dealers forum had its fair share of politics among the trade talk, as Jim Hawtin reports.

Miners keep pressure on

The annual Diggers and Dealers forum had its fair share of politics among the trade talk, as Jim Hawtin reports.


The mining industry’s ongoing dispute with the Federal Government over exploration policy cast a pall over what was an otherwise positive Diggers and Dealers forum in Kalgoorlie last week.

A record number of 1,300 delegates attended what has become one of the world’s largest mining showcases.

The three-day forum is seen as a good gauge of sentiment in the cyclical mining industry.

The past year has generally been one of escalating minerals prices, which have translated into a return of investor sentiment in the resource sector and a growing confidence in the industry.  

“You can feel the buzz in the air,” one conference organiser said.

Despite the up-beat sentiment, the industry maintained its Canberra-directed barrage throughout the three-day affair and signalled it would not stop.

Its concern is lagging levels of Australian exploration – without new exploration it is argued current mineral resources will not be replaced.

A lack of policy in Canberra is seen as one reason.

Industry bodies such as AMEC and WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy continue to call for government incentives, such as a flow-through share scheme and more pre-competitive geoscience, to stimulate new exploration.

Diggers and Dealers chairman Brian Hurley opened the forum by reiterating his calls of the previous year not to make donations to political parties.

Although there has been a flood of mining floats, combined with good exploration success this year, Mr Hurley said it was brownfields not new greenfields exploration and, contrary to popular belief, capital was still difficult to raise.

At the closing dinner, David Reed, a long time supporter of flow-through shares, urged the industry not to let up on the Federal Government.

He blamed the Federal Treasurer Peter Costello rather than Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane for the lack of mining incentives in the recent budget.

It is understood former Liberal Party State president Ian Warner lobbied the Prime Minister at last weekend’s Liberal Party Conference in Perth.

The mounting pressure is believed to be a particular threat to the Government’s chances of retaining the strong mining electorate of Kalgoorlie.

Kalgoorlie is a marginal seat for both the State and Federal Liberal parties, and current Federal Kalgoorlie MLA Barry Haase is under mounting pressure.

Yet despite the political wrangling over Kalgoorlie, most delegates were not deterred from enjoying the town’s traditional warm welcome.

Big miners such as Newmont talked of big Australian (greenfields) exploration budgets; project consultants recounted how their onshore work was returning; and juniors and financiers enjoyed some of the warmest greetings felt in years.

But stealing the ‘show’ this year was China’s rapidly developing economy.

Diggers and dealers alike talked of China’s development and the creation of huge, long-term demand for raw materials.

Interestingly, while the forum is often noted for its gold focus, most of the big gold producers at the conference reported falling profits.


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