A statue outside the Kalgoorlie Hotel
Miners, brokers, bankers and suppliers will descend on Kalgoorlie for the Diggers and Dealers forum. Image by Rebecca Le May/AAP PHOTOS
  • economy, business and finance

Miners, bankers head west to strike deals

Marion Rae July 31, 2022

A record number of delegates are making their way to Western Australia for the highlight of the mining industry’s social calendar.

But the three-day Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum that kicks off in Kalgoorlie on Monday carries a weighty agenda to accompany the cocktail hours and glittering gala dinner.

This year is the first since the pandemic began that international visitors and east coast executives have been able to attend the event, with 2620 delegates signed up and more on waiting lists for the prized tickets. 

Kalgoorlie’s hotels and motels are full, while more than 150 private homes are also cashing in. The event is expected to inject $4 million into the local economy.

Half of the attendees are miners with the remainder brokers, bankers and suppliers.

Resources Minister Madeleine King says the event has been important for the sector – and Kalgoorlie – for decades.

She acknowledges the last few years have been “tough” for the industry but says those involved in the sector should be proud of their efforts during global turmoil.

Looking ahead, Ms King says Australia’s vast reserves of lithium, cobalt, rare earth elements and other critical minerals are “essential” to clean energy technologies in a world striving for net zero carbon emissions.

But there are also “real and serious issues” facing the industry, particularly the sexual harassment of women, she tells AAP.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected in their workplace,” she says.

“The fact is, however, there is still a long way to go to make this a reality for the 52,000 women who work in the industry.”

The minister also urges mining executives to respond “quickly and with strength” to ongoing COVID-19 challenges.

“I will work with the industry to make sure the women and men who work in our mines, gas and oil industries feel safe,” she says.

“The industry also needs to make sure the culture and heritage of our First Nations peoples is protected.”

While Australia’s mineral and energy exports are forecast to hit a record $419 billion in 2022/23, organisers expect conversations to focus on the challenges facing the resources sector.

Recent quarterly updates from companies highlight escalating costs and skilled labour shortages. 

Share prices have suffered this year on recession fears and disruption from the war in Ukraine, but takeover activity may start to heat up now that potential targets are cheaper.

The lithium and rare earths sectors are still prized, helped by a North American drive to secure minerals that are essential to industries of the future such as the manufacture of batteries for electric cars.

Recent Aussie deals include lithium developer Liontown Resources securing supply agreements with Ford, Tesla and LG Energy Solutions.

Tesla has also secured a nickel agreement with BHP and a lithium deal with Wesfarmers subsidiary Covalent Lithium.

Almost 70 presenters will make their pitch to fellow diggers and dealers, who also need to be fed.

Two marquees have been constructed to house almost 160 company booths, catering and the much-anticipated evening functions.

There are no facilities in the town capable of handling the volume of food preparation for an event this size, so a commercial kitchen has been built adjacent to the largest, 3000sq m marquee.

Staffing is also a challenge for the gala dinner and prize-giving ceremony on Wednesday.

A charter flight on the final afternoon will bring extra hospitality workers to service the sit-down dinner for 1330 before the staff pack up and are flown back to Perth.