AME Remote Roundup 2021: Leading Through Change

‘Leading Through Change’ was the theme for AME Roundup 2021, the association’s 38th Mineral Exploration Roundup and the first entirely virtual conference. Safety is the industry’s highest priority and AME led the way in safely facilitating the largest virtual gathering of the global exploration industry to date due to the global pandemic.

Over five days, Remote Roundup welcomed attendees from more than 20 countries, with the majority of participants spending over 10 hours on the customized online platform, which gathered over 32,000 booth visits and 15,000 unique views of conference presentations. The platform offered all of the traditional experiences Roundup is known for, including technical, ESG (environment, social and governance) and finance presentations, The Gathering Place, exhibit hall, networking events, Core Shack, and more. Even the AGM went virtual, where the association welcomed Jill Tsolinas as AME Chair for 2021.

In his Opening Ceremony remarks, Premier John Horgan congratulated BC’s mineral exploration sector for raising $358 million in 2020 and thanked BC’s explorers for keeping the economy ticking along, especially in rural areas, by spending $422 million throughout the province on mineral exploration in 2020, the most since 2013.

Responsible Resource Development

One overarching theme for the conference was responsible resource development and BC and Canada’s unique ability to supply the climate-critical commodities the world needs from safe and sustainable operations, particularly as the disruptions caused by COVID-19 subside and the new normal takes hold.

“Building back better starts now,” said Paul Lefebvre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Federal Minister of Natural Resources at the Government Industry Forum, “And minerals and metals must be at the heart of that.”

Throughout the conference, speakers positioned nickel, copper, gold, cobalt and other projects under the ESG spotlight, noting the necessity of these metals for building our low carbon economies. In a session focussed on ESG, attendees heard from Microsoft and Scotiabank on the growing demand from consumers and investors for metals supply chains to meet and exceed ESG standards. Mining companies at the source of these supply chains are increasingly under the microscope, but by adhering to credible certifications, this gives investors, lenders and buyers the confidence that there is no social harm or environmental damage.

“There’s only one way a mineral exploration company can operate today, and that’s with the highest possible ESG performance,” said Ross Beaty, Chair, Pan American Silver, during the ESG Session.

Open & Smart Exploration

Among many noteworthy comments, Robert Friedland, Founder and Executive Co-Chairman, Ivanhoe Mines, said during his Keynote address at the Opening Ceremony; “At one end we’ll have smarter exploration, at the other, smarter markets.” He elaborated that during exploration, the latest geophysical and other search tools were making deeper and covered orebodies easier to find. At the other end of the mining cycle, he posited how commodities may be priced in the future.

“All commodities will have differential pricing,” said Friedland, “There’ll be no ‘one price’ for copper, no ‘one price’ for gold. They’ll be priced according to ESG factors.”

The latest smart exploration practices were on display in several sessions throughout the conference, including new models for ore formation in the Golden Triangle and innovative exploration tools to sniff out mineral deposits and mineralized structures by testing gases in soils.

Advocacy and Access

“Mineral exploration and mining can and should be at the forefront of the post COVID-19 B.C. economic recovery plan. There is already increased demand for “critical minerals” and “green metals,” and that demand will continue to grow…What we need now is a big push forward on advanced-stage projects that are in the permitting process.” said Kendra Johnston, AME President and CEO in a recent article in The Province.

Permitting, as always, was top of mind for BC’s explorers. Fazil Mihlar, BC’s Deputy Minister, Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, acknowledged in the Government Industry Forum that the existing processes need improvement and said that his ministry was focused on “reducing time for permits.” Mihlar said: “We understand that we need to do better… we’re not waiting for perfection.”

Transformation of Mineral Exploration

One of many transformations discussed during the conference was the mineral exploration sector’s contributions toward reconciliation. During the Government Industry Forum, Newcrest Mining’s Ben Wither, Manager HSEC and People at Red Chris, observed that the industry is “moving away from transactional relationships” with affected First Nations and toward stronger, longer-lasting partnerships.  

And on the final day, in a moving, raw, honest and ultimately uplifting Keynote Session on Diversity and Inclusion, a diverse panel shared the challenges, issues and best practices related to diversity, equity and inclusion in mineral exploration. The session highlighted that mineral exploration in BC is early in its transformation from a white cis male-dominated sector to one with more women, LGBTQ+ and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) people.

Giving and Receiving

Many attendees donated to the Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, Britannia Mine Museum and MineralsEd throughout the conference, raising more than $10,000. The support and commitment the mineral exploration community shows to our industry non-profits and those in need continues to be humbling, thank you.

Overall, the virtual platform enabled all the experiences attendees at AME Roundup have come to expect: new geoscience and discovery stories, the latest views on commodities and finance, open discussions about relationships with communities and the public, and opportunities to network.

It is not over yet. For those who registered for the conference, you have six months to re-visit all the conference content on-demand. If you missed it, you can still register today, and review the conference content at your leisure for the next six months. Visit AME Roundup to register.

By Kylie Williams.