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‘Surprisingly big deals get done here’: how much of the mining business is done over beers | CBC News



Every day at 5 p.m. the PDAC mining conference closes down and the some 30,000 people who have spent the day in the downtown convention centre are sent out onto the streets of Toronto.

And some would say that’s when things really get started.

The annual gathering of the global mining industry, hosted by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, is legendary for its parties.

Every night this week, there were multiple invite-only events held across downtown Toronto, with drink tickets being handed out and servers circulating with trays of finger foods, all sponsored by one mining company or another.

Mining professionals say the ‘socials’ during the PDAC conference, including this crowded Mining 4 Beer event, are essential for making contacts and getting new mines open. (Erik White/CBC )

“It’s one of those things where social activity and getting to know people, instead of sitting in a presentation, you’re getting to really interact with them and find out who they are,” said Paul Gill, the CEO of Vancouver-based Triple One Metals, at an event called Mining 4 Beer. 

“It’s vital for us to connect with each other, commiserate a little bit about how terrible things are and what new projects we’re all working on.”

Gill says junior mining companies looking to land that one big investor likely won’t be able to track them down at the evening “socials” during PDAC and are even less likely to ink a deal at the bar, but he says the “beautiful part” of networking is being able to eventually connect with the right people you need to get your mine up and running. 

Gill, who has interest in some 100 mining firms other than his own, says he’s especially wary of people who come on strongly with a stock sales pitch, making claims about their deposit that “gives us all a blackeye.”

“That’s the nature of the business. You can never tell what’s real and what is not, because everything becomes either oversold or overbought,” he said.

“Sometimes a good project won’t get funded or won’t get discovered because they don’t have the right person to talk about it or yell about it.”

A roulette table with gamblers standing around
The Royal York Hotel is no longer the centre of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada annual conference, but it did host a few parties, including a casino night. (Erik White/CBC )

Some salespeople are assigned to work the parties at PDAC, while their colleagues try to drum up business at the trade show during the day.

“You’ve got some very high net worth people in here, you’ve got some of the biggest fish and then you’ve got totally fly-by-night crazy-ass juniors,” said Michael Rowley, CEO of B.C.-based Stillwater Critical Minerals.

“Networking is very real in this industry. It’s a wonderfully small pond. Surprisingly big deals get done here.”

He also took part in some of the one-on-one meetings arranged in special cubicles at the convention centre, where companies can have more in-depth conversations with investors and supply contractors, but it will never totally replace doing business over beers.  

“Geologists have a particular affinity for beer and does that help those colourful maps make sense and help you find a deposit? Jury’s out,” Rowley said.

He said he has seen mining properties or even the terms of an agreement sketched out on a bar napkin.

Some people in suits eating and drinking in the middle of a hockey museum
Mining supply company SGS hosted a PDAC event at the Hockey Hall of Fame. (Erik White/CBC )

Michael Sutton remembers seeing a deal to sell a mine in Africa being drawn up on a cigarette package in a Toronto bar years ago.

“PDAC is a place where lots of deals were done,” said the prospector from Kirkland Lake, who has been coming to the convention since 1982.

Sutton fondly recalls the days when the convention was based around the Royal York Hotel and the sometimes rowdy parties would go late into the night in “hospitality suites” sponsored by different mining companies. 

“It’s gotten so big. It’s not the same. I miss the old days,” he said. 

Morning North10:08Morning North at PDAC – the social side of the giant mining conference

A big part of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference is the parties. It’s where a lot of mining deals get done. Morning North producer Erik White sampled some of the nightlife at the conference and told us more about it. 

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