Geobank Product Strategy Manager, Mark Gabbitus, reflects on his experience over the last four days at Diggers and Dealers 2017.
August in the WA mining game means its Diggers & Dealers time. Diggers & Dealers, or Diggers as its usually called, is hosted in the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia annually as an opportunity for the mining and investment communities to come together. The event is based around presentations by explorers and producers in the hope of raising capital for their prospects and operations. The presentations are hosted in the Kalgoorlie arts centre whilst outside the main building, a huge marque is erected to house booths for exploration and mining companies, consultants and a few Mining Engineering Technical (METS) companies.
MICROMINE has been attending Diggers for years and with our strong exploration heritage, we have always had a strong association with the event. With the recent mining downturn, the last few years have been relatively quiet but this year there was a great deal of optimism in the room. The buzz around a number of new discoveries and operations was palpable and it felt like everyone had a new Gold, Lithium or Graphite play in the wings. It might be too early to call the end of the downturn but it certainly felt like the good times were just around the corner again.
We sent a great team to man the booth this year that consisted of Simon Moxham and Darren Thompson (Micromine and Geobank Business Development), Andrew Esmaili (Micromine Operations) the two Chris’s (Hunt and Rowohlt from Pitram Business Development) and myself. We were all smiles and excited as we boarded the Prospector train last Sunday for the trip to Kalgoorlie. 8 hours later and a little less smiley, we rolled into the station and headed to our digs for the week. We have been lucky enough to find a great family house in town for the last few years to borrow and getting there always feels like coming home. Beers in the fridge and Foxtel on the TV is always a bonus when you’re away from home for a while (it beats most mine dongas anyway).
Diggers starts early on the Monday so we headed in even earlier to get the booth setup and ready to go. No sooner had we got everything in place and the doors to the delegates were opened and it was on. Seriously! I don’t recall a free moment all day for the team. We had clients (old and new) stopping by to say hi and ask what’s new. The Business Development guys were busy fielding questions about licence renewals (a sure sign the good times are coming) whilst the technical guys were talking up the new product features in the latest and upcoming versions of Geobank Mobile, Geobank, Micromine and Pitram. I guess there must have been some quieter spots because we did find time to eat and have a coffee or two but even then it felt like you were constantly saying g’day to old mates. For me it was more like a school reunion than a conference or expo. Anyone who has worked in the mining business will know that it’s really a very small business and these events are always an opportunity to catch up with people you’ve worked with before. I was pumped to have caught up with an old work mate from one of my first mining jobs in Meekatharra back in the 90’s as well as people I have trained and worked with over the years, some who were fresh graduates when I first met them and are now running their own companies. It was great to see them all.
After a busy day, it was finally time to have a few cold beers and at Diggers, this is part of the deal. Each night there are beers and food available so that the socialising and discussions can continue into the evening. This was a great chance to debrief the team and find out who had spoken with whom and what needed following up. After one day, the volume of work to follow up on once we got back to Perth was incredible. I don’t know about the other guys but I was feeling a bit hoarse myself so after a few more cleansing ales in the Palace Hotel and a few games of pool it was time to crash and reboot for day 2.
The following day was a bit quieter in the morning. I suspect a few people may have enjoyed the Palace a bit later than us. Nevertheless, we had people rolling past the booth to chat almost straight away and the day followed pretty much the same pattern as the first. I did manage to find some time to wander round the booths on day 2 though and to take a look at what some of the companies were doing. It always amazes me how many new prospects we are still finding. Especially in WA. If you look at a map of current and historical mines and discoveries in the state there doesn’t seem to be that many gaps yet people are constantly finding new regions, extension and opportunities like Lithium, Uranium and Graphite. I spoke to a number of explorers and they all seemed to be sitting on the next big thing (well they would say that at Diggers right?) but even if a quarter of them move to production in the next 10 years, it bodes well for the mining industry for the foreseeable future and for MICROMINE. Pretty much every booth I stopped by was a client and a fan. The number one comment I got was that they trusted us and were grateful for the support they received from the teams in Perth and around the world. This is great to hear. In an era of consolidation and public ownership of many of the METs companies here in Australia and around the world, MICROMINE stands out as a family run company that is focussed on our client’s needs.
The day two wind up was called the Big Bash and featured food stalls from all around the world. Asian, Middle Eastern and an Aussie BBQ were the standouts with lamb kebabs, pita and hummus my favourite bite of the night. The team were all a bit weary after another massive day so it was back home and early to bed for all.
The final day at Diggers is only a half day for the booths but that didn’t quell the interest in MICROMINE and from when the doors opened to lunch time when we had to pack up the booth, it was demos and questions all morning. We even got a visit from the Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Hon Bill Johnston MLA, who stopped by the booth for a chat and a quick photo. Packing up didn’t take long and after a quick bite to eat we piled into a few taxis and went back to the house for some chill time before the main event, the Diggers & Dealers Gala Ball. I took the opportunity to head into Kalgoorlie for a wander around. It’s been a few years since I was last in town so I went into the mining museum and wandered along the high street before heading home to get suited up for the ball.
The ball is held in the huge marque (which is why we had to get out at 12 so they can setup) and after queuing in the cold for a bit, we were able to get in and find a team table. We had acquired another team member as Josue Fajardo Borjas (Pitram Specialist Systems Team Lead) had flown in for a couple of days to visit a client and we were lucky enough to secure him a ticket to the ball as well. The food was amazing with a cured salmon starter followed by an amazing beef dish, fillet steak on one side and slow cooked beef on the other. The slow cooked beef was melt in the mouth awesomeness! Deserts were a mix of sweets and cheeses plus a very nice glass of Port to wash it all down. At the ball, the Diggers & Dealers committee presented awards to companies such as the best explorer and best new company. With formalities over it was time for the main show. This year it was a brother and sister magic act. After shrinking and spiking each other quite a bit, the highlight for me was watching the brother do a series of card tricks. The speed that he could shuffle, split and find the same card over and over was amazing. Most people carry on after the ball but with a 7am train home to catch, most of us called it a night and went home.
So here I am writing this on the train back to Perth, watching the scenery pass by and thinking about all the work the team will have to do tomorrow and next week. Good problems to have. This year was a blast and we will be back next year to do it all over again.
Read the MICROMINE Diggers and Dealers 2017 post event press release and see more photos from the event: MICROMINE Breaks Ground at Diggers and Dealers 2017