Developers of the elements needed for electric cars and wind turbines are already making their mark at Australia’s biggest mining industry event.
Known for its gold mining larrikins, tended by scantily clad barmaids called “Skimpies” at Kalgoorlie bars, the decades-old annual Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum has kicked off with more than 2600 delegates descending on the town in Western Australia.
ASX-listed Core Lithium is one of several new market darlings fronting the forum, with deals in place at leading automakers including Tesla for critical minerals that are still in the ground.
Core Lithium executive Simon Iacopetta believes the pessimistic broker forecasts for lithium prices that smashed stock prices earlier this year are overdone.
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He revealed new drilling results showing “world-class high-grade lithium” at the remote Finniss Lithium Project near Darwin – Australia’s latest lithium mine – driving shares up 2.6 per cent on Monday.
Australian Strategic Materials is set to become a provider to the world’s growing electric vehicle and wind turbine operations from the company’s Dubbo mine in NSW, according to key investor Ian Gandel.
But investment strategist Dambisa Moyo told the audience of miners, brokers and investors to follow the money, not the response to the climate and energy crisis.
“Watch the private investors,” the United States-based keynote speaker said.
Warren Buffett has been a big buyer of energy companies in recent months, against the trend of getting carbon-laden investments off the books, she said.
“He’s being greedy while the rest of us are being fearful,” said Dr Moyo, who is also an author and economist.
Amid stronger national emissions reduction targets and broader environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns, she said there would be a “transition” to carbon-neutral industries rather than a sudden change.
“We have a science problem that’s not just going to be turned on and off by public policymakers,” Dr Moyo said.
She said the “E” in ESG had been short-handed to just mean climate, but the social and cultural aspects must also be recognised.
Delivering the traditional Welcome to Country to industry delegates coming to grips with a sometimes shameful legacy, Linden Brownley said it was an “opportune time to look deep within ourselves”.
Digby Gilmour, executive director of broking firm Canaccord Genuity, said many delegates are focused on the rapid emergence of inflationary pressures on wages, operating costs and development, and wonder when labour and energy costs will peak.
Sticking with tradition, gold miner Newcrest Mining was the first of almost 70 firms who will take to the stage during the three-day event.
Newcrest executive Fraser MacCorquodale said he wants more development partners.
“Exploration is a team sport, it’s not just something that one company can do on its own,” he said.
Forum chair Jim Walker opened the conference with a tribute to Ausdrill founder Ron Sayers, a “son of Kalgoorlie” who died in March aged 70.
The industry leader and thoroughbred horse breeder left school at 14 for an apprenticeship in the Kalgoorlie “super pit”, once Australia’s largest open-cut gold mine, before building his billion-dollar company in the 1990s.
Mr Walker said the industry icon was also respected for his Ausdrill Way social benefit fund for workers who fell on hard times.