Europe’s largest mining conference kicks off tomorrow. Here’s what you need to know.
If there’s one unmissable mining conference, it’s event series Mines and Money — which is bringing its thousands-strong network to Resourcing Tomorrow in London, through 28-30 November.
Alongside dozens of mining spotlights, there’s also the ever-enjoyable pitch battles, where junior explorers/developers pitch their project live in front of an investor panel. I’ll be a judge in one of these battles on Wednesday, but the real purpose of the conference (over than the cool macro insights from the majors) is the opportunity for junior resource companies to pitch to the majors, high net worth investors and government officials.
- You want a HNW to buy in? You need to convince them — at your stall or during your spotlight — that your assets at that price point is a more convincing buy than the 100+ other junior companies all competing for limited investor cash.
- You want a major to entertain the idea of a JV/buyout or similar? Same problem — dozens of companies in the same sector are also plying their best marketing in an attempt to get some notice.
- You want a government grant? Guess what — so does everybody else. You might have a decent deposit of a critical mineral in a reasonable jurisdiction, but you need to be able to explain to a wandering official, moving between stalls, why your project demands five minutes of their time.
And yes, of course meetings are agreed in advance. But it’s the new connections being made spontaneously that in my experience leads to results. After all, any pre-agreed meeting is likely to be between two people who at least know of each other already.
The good news is that the opportunities are immense — 2,000 attendees are not there for the coffee and cake.
Above is only a handful of names in attendance. The big guns are there to give speeches, and also to make in-person connections. But it’s also worth noting that passes, exhibits et al are not free. If a company you have invested in is exhibiting, then they need to have something to show for it at the end of the event.
Therefore, here are a handful of questions that exhibitors should be prepared for:
1. Can you describe your investment case in less than two minutes?
2. What Unique Selling Point do you have — why should I invest in you over anyone else?
3. What is your cash position? Will any investment be immediately diluted?
4. How can you manage commodity volatility and geopolitical instability?
5. How strong is your board? Can you point to past successes?
6. What is the biggest risk associated with your business?
7. Can you name another strong opportunity in the same space you occupy?
That last question is perhaps the most telling as you will get one of two answers: no, only our company is exceptional — or yes, here’s another business with a strong investment case that would complement us within a risk portfolio.
The first response is childish, the second professional. If an exhibitor can’t nail these sorts of queries every time, they’re wasting their time. One of the biggest things that HNW investors or potential JV partners want to see is a company that understands its position within the market — and can market the positives and also address the negatives.
But the second question is the most important. Most potential investors will listen politely to the pre-prepared investment case, but the meat is in the USP. Do you have one specific reason to either invest, or entertain the idea of a Joint Venture?
Therefore, if you happen to be invested in First Class Metals, Asiamet Resources, Bradda Head, Firering, Panther Metals, ECR, Thor Exploration et al — all of which are setting up stalls this year — it’s time to ask yourself these questions. If you can answer them confidently, then so can the company and the conference could be a success.
If your company doesn’t have a stall, there’s still a good chance that a representative will be walking the aisles anyway.
But beyond this, you want to see some photos of the presentation. You want to see some videos going out on social media discussing the assets, talking to investors — and if nothing else, creating a feel-good vibe that has been sorely lacking in 2023’s market.
Are we at rock bottom?
There are two immutable facts to consider at the junior resource level:
1. There is a huge metals supply gap — regardless of current pricing levels, demand is going to increase beyond current capacity.
2. Junior resource companies’ share prices are extremely depressed due to wider market conditions.
So the question becomes: are we at the bottom? My view is broadly yes, the market has bottomed as interest rate rises have finished. As rates rise, risk assets become less attractive — but the best-paying fixed rate accounts are now seeing interest on offer fall, and therefore risk assets are becoming correspondingly more attractive.
The key problem is the greed/fear ratio. Through 2023, fear has won out over greed — investor fear of a placing to fund activities have overwhelmingly won out over greed that the company could deliver spectacular returns. And sadly, this is a negative feedback loop — fear of placings causes share prices to fall, which then means the placing needs to be a larger issue of shares.
External cash is currently lent out on fairly painful terms — because if you (and by you I mean any HNW investor or major) can get 6% risk free from a mutual fund, then the interest/asset percentage will need to be much higher than in the past.
But after capitulation, and then desperation, comes speculation. Net zero targets, supply gaps, and even political security of supply will eventually see investors look at record gold prices, and sky-high uranium prices, and Chinese export bans, and the rEVolution, and the fact that we need to mine more copper in the next 25 years or so than in all of human history so far…
To think: ‘you know what — these companies are not worthless.’
Of course, everyone at the conference will spend their private moments complaining that they can’t progress their assets without financing – and in this environment any effort to raise cash is a catch-22, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
But other than a wider market recovery, my guess is that the juniors will be paying far more attention to government officials than in the past. The US, EU, UK, and Canada all have critical minerals strategies that involve significant grant funding for solid juniors — and my expectation is that companies will be focusing on this aspect more than in past conferences.
I’ll let you know my full thoughts next week.
This article has been prepared for information purposes only by Charles Archer. It does not constitute advice, and no party accepts any liability for either accuracy or for investing decisions made using the information provided.
Further, it is not intended for distribution to, or use by, any person in any country or jurisdiction where such distribution or use would be contrary to local law or regulation.