Junior miners converge on Vancouver for AME BC roundup

Annual conference draws geologists and junior exploration executives from around the world

Roughly 7,000 geologists and junior miners are expected in Vancouver this week for what is billed as the world’s largest exploration conference: the Association for Mineral Exploration BC (AME BC) annual Mineral Exploration Roundup.

The January 26 to 29 event at Canada Place follows last week’s Cambridge House International Vancouver Resource Investment Conference.

Given some of the dire predictions in light of low commodity prices and a prolonged financing drought, many of this year’s conference attendees might be surprised to see some of their peers are still around.

At the beginning of 2013, Brent Cook of Exploration Insights predicted a third of junior miners would simply fade away.

The number of juniors listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and TSX Venture Exchange has shrunk from 1,600 in 2011 to 1,492, according to AME BC, but the mortality rate has been less severe than predicted.

Some of those companies have abandoned minerals for medical marijuana or, worse, for oil; others have been acquired.

Finding companies ripe for acquisition is what draws some investors to Vancouver on the annual pilgrimage, said Mickey Fulp, the New Mexico-based author of the Mercenary Geologist, one of the speakers at this year’s Cambridge House investment conference.

“What I see going on right now is a bunch of distressed assets, and smart money people are forming new companies to try to acquire these distressed assets at bargain basement prices,” Fulp told Business in Vancouver. “People with a longer-term view of the market are positioning themselves for an upturn in the next boom cycle.”

Many key commodities are still suffering. Copper hit a five-year low recently, and gold prices have been on a downhill slide since October 2012, dragging the TSX and TSX Venture down with it. But last week gold rose above the critical US$1,300-per-ounce mark for the first time since August 2014 – offering a glimmer of hope for those juniors with gold properties.

One of the highlights at this year’s AME BC roundup will be a keynote speech by Chuck Jeannes, CEO of Goldcorp (TSX:G), which last week announced it’s buying Probe Mines Ltd. (TSX-V:PRB), a junior exploration company with assets in Ontario, for US$440 million.