By Axel Blackrod
Hong Kong is not exactly known for mines, or theatre for that matter, but the four-day Mines and Money conference on Hong Kong Harbour was the setting for a surprisingly theatrical show, in what has been a four year bear market for the miners.
Inevitably the keynote opening event was world-leading mining entrepreneur Robert Friedland complaining about the pollution in Hong Kong (air pollution is the world number one health risk)and Ivanhoe Mines has the answer… enter the Chairman of Zijin Mining, which has just bought 9.9 per cent of Ivanhoe for US$82 million.
Over the next 3 days, a series of high profile presenters spoke on the state of the mining industry and the challenges to be faced. Frank Holmes of US Global and Ken Hoffman of Bloomberg were both upbeat and the big Chinese corporations were not as negative as media reports have been suggesting.
But as confidence began to seep back, up popped Prof Ian Plimer with a frightener on global warming and the next day came libertarian Doug Casey, warning of a potential financial apocalypse and the need to accumulate gold.
Fortunately there were success stories on stage from explorers who had become developers or miners like Sirius Exploration, Metals X and Evolution Mining and some new faces for tomorrow appeared in support roles like Blackham Resources, Energia Minerals and Pretium Resources, with Kaizen Discovery as a clone of Friedland with Japanese backing.
This Mines and Money was a real meeting place in China between Asian money and the global mining community. A lot more capital is required to finance the new mines Asian urbanisation and infrastructure needs.
With stockbrokers and resource asset managers experiencing malnutrition, the private equity outfits had thought they could set the price of new capital by talking things down, but the big sovereign funds were around too and so perhaps the bottom of the cycle has been seen.
So, although the number of junior companies in the exhibition hall was down on last year, as one of the major mining companies observed “the companies who exhibit in tough times will be the survivors who will walk to the sunlit uplands in future years”.
But Mines and Money had saved the best for last. Gina Rinehart, the richest woman in the mining world flew in to collect a well deserved Lifetime Achievement award.
Her human side was on display as she made a passionate speech to the Awards Dinner calling on global delegates to stand together for new mine development and to robustly challenge the anti mining media and the grasping governments all around the world.
As the audience rose to show their support she majestically walked out with her supporting cast to board her executive jet back to Perth. leaving the media corps in her wake unable to shout their questions. The lady from the Pilbara deserts had stolen the show.