Many of the delegates at this year’s Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) conference, which was held this week in Toronto, said they were trying to look past the current gloom toward future opportunities. Despite current industry challenges, more than 22,000 people from more than 100 countries gathered at the annual event.

“The mineral exploration and mining industry has been facing an array of economic challenges the past several years, but the sector continues to demonstrate its resiliency,” said outgoing PDAC President Rod Thomas, pointing to new money coming into the industry, favorable market trends and a move to drive new and sustainable solutions to mining activities.

The PDAC 2016 Convention hosted its inaugural International Mines Ministers Summit (IMMS) that brought together 16 national mines ministers from around the world. Led by Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, the Hon. Jim Carr — who spoke at a series of PDAC functions — the IMMS provided an important setting for the international mining community to discuss and work on resolving issues affecting the industry. In addition, 25 federal parliamentarians, six provincial/territorial ministers and two premiers attended PDAC 2016.

“It is important that the PDAC builds strong working relationships not only with provincial and federal governments in Canada, but also with international governments to ensure the mineral industry continues to succeed and grow both in Canada and internationally,” said PDAC Executive Director Andrew Cheatle. “The PDAC Convention was an excellent opportunity to showcase the importance and scale of our industry to the new government of Canada and we look forward to further building upon the constructive activities that occurred at the 2016 PDAC Convention.”

On Monday evening, the PDAC honored individual and companies at its awards dinner. The Bruce Channel Discovery Team received the Bill Dennis Award. Robert Cudney, Stephen Roman and John Whitton accepted the award for their Bruce Channel gold discovery in the heart of the well-explored Red Lake gold camp in northwestern Ontario. It was discovered by Exall Resources Ltd., which later became Gold Eagle Mines Ltd. after merging with Southern Star Resources Inc. In May 2007, an internal estimate of the deposit size was 14.1 to 16.5 million metric tons (mt) of mineralized rock at a grade of roughly 20-25 g/mt gold for a total of between 9 and 13.3 million ounces of gold.

This discovery was also given the Discovery of the Year Award by the Ontario Northwestern Prospectors Association in 2008, which is the same year that Gold Eagle Mines was taken over by Goldcorp Inc. for $1.5 billion.

Pat Sheahan received the Distinguished Service Award. In 1972, she founded an information service for exploration companies focused on diamonds, base and precious metals in 1972 and started her own consulting firm that provided a flow of information about the diamond boom in Canada, which ultimately paved the way for junior mining companies to enter the industry. By 1993, she had organized the PDAC Convention’s first short course on diamonds that attracted more than 400 people. Sheahan has been a director of seven junior companies, including ones that put into production the River Ranch diamond mine in Zimbabwe, Holloway gold mine in Ontario, Jericho diamond mine in Nunavut, and Kelsey Lake diamond mine in Colorado. She has served as chairman on various committees, written five books, and contributed peer reviewed papers and articles.

Lucara Diamond Corp. received the Environmental & Social Responsibility Award for its stakeholder initiatives, community engagement and focus on sustainable practices and long-term benefits at their Karowe mine in Botswana.

Darrell Beaulieu received the Skookum Jim Award for his innovation, hard work and dedication to the minerals industry in his community. He is a leader and highly respected member of his community who served three terms as chief of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. His work in the mineral industry began early in exploration, staking mineral claims and working on a number of exploration projects in the Northwest Territories. In 2005, he assumed the role of president and CEO of Denendeh Investments, a Dene corporation established to create long-term economic self-sufficiency for the Dene through profitable business ventures.

The PDAC recognized the Bjorkman Family with its Special Achievement Award for their multigenerational dedication to geology, prospecting and diversity. Bjorkman Prospecting is a long-standing Ontario-based prospecting company that has worked in locations all across Canada as well as internationally. Encouraged by his father, Karl Bjorkman started prospecting around 1990 and saw his business grow to include claim staking, exploration project management and technical support. His five daughters, Jessica, Katarina, Ruth, Veronique and Karla, along with one son named Bjorn, inherited his passion for finding gold, making it the third generation to work in the industry. Wife and mother Nikki, keeps the books.
In their time, the Bjorkman’s have covered significant ground. They have staked approximately 700,000 hectares, or 1.8 million acres of land. That’s approximately 16,000 to 19,000 km and 40,000 to 50,000 claim posts. The Bjorkman’s have an extensive archive of prospecting information, and in partnership with other Thunder Bay area entrepreneurs, they stake ground in anticipation of finding a senior partner to fund further and more extensive exploration.

The Bjorkman girls are credited for encouraging other women into a predominantly male dominated industry. Female prospectors are rare; let alone five sisters who all work in the same industry.

The PDAC presented the Thayer Lindsley Award to the Cukaru Peki Discovery Team. Cukaru Peki is exceptional because it was a blind discovery in an established mining camp — it is large, of high-grade and could result in the establishment of a new geological model, providing targets for future explorers to seek.

Silver Wheaton was honored with the Viola R. MacMillan Award for developing new and innovative business strategies that are a leading example for other companies and junior miners to follow. Because their business model acquires metal in advance of production, using funds often designated to finance capital projects like mine construction, the market looked at the business mechanism employed by Silver Wheaton as a new type of project or corporate financing instrument. Since 2004, Silver Wheaton has built a strong brand and set an example of how to make their business strategy one of the preferred methods for the junior sector to finance a mine. The company is now positioned as the largest precious metal streaming company in the world.