More than 6,000 geoscientists, technical experts, prospectors, suppliers, governments and indigenous partners will be tuning into the virtual AME Remote Roundup 2021 conference running from January 18-22.
Attendees and participants will be able to access live and on-demand programming from anywhere in the world and the annual conference offers the ability to connect, network and exchange ideas, Kendra Johnston, AME’s president and CEO says, adding that the theme of the 2021 conference is “Leading Through Change.”
Leading Through Change underscores the shift to the virtual realm due to the coronavirus pandemic, but also highlights how AME itself leads through change and how British Columbia is a leader in areas such as innovation and the creation of a mining innovation hub in the province as well as its work on lowering B.C.’s carbon footprint, she explains.
“This is our 38th Roundup and it’s such an integral part of the year for all of our members,” Johnston told The Northern Miner in an interview. “It’s the conference that sets the trends for what’s going to happen in the upcoming year.”
The 2021 virtual conference will include all of the regular programming that is expected from the annual event, including an impressive line-up of keynote speakers. The conference keynote this year is Robert Friedland of Ivanhoe Mines, who will discuss the international copper markets. The finance keynote will focus on financing trends and deal structures for junior companies, with speaker David Elliott of Haywood Securities, and the AME keynote discussion will be on diversity and inclusion with Shastri Ramnath, CEO of Exiro Minerals; Andy Randell, CEO and principal geoscientist at SDGS Hive; Linda Murphy, Yamana Gold’s senior manager of community relations; and John Antwi, president and director of Elim Mining.
“The AME keynote being on diversity and inclusion is a first for us,” Johnston said, noting that all four of the speakers “are going to be talking about some of their experiences in the industry – good and bad – from what their days in camp to their days running organizations have been like as individuals from under-represented populations in our industry. It’s going to be an open and honest conversation and one which hopefully we can call learn from.”
Johnston added that when diversity and inclusion were discussed at Roundup in the past, “it’s often been women in mining that we’ve talked about, this is an important conversation, but this past year, the conversation on diversity and inclusion progressed significantly and became much broader. It’s a conversation that we need to have as an industry, as companies, and internally with ourselves, so that we can learn and progress with the conversation.”
Looking specifically at B.C., Johnston noted that the province, First Nation governments and industry have made significant progress in 2020 with the implementation of the Declaration for Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), and the corresponding conversations about diversity and inclusion. “Mineral exploration and mining companies generally are leaders among industry peers in advancing conversations and partnership agreements with our First Nations partners, but we can always go a step further to understand more and strive to improve upon our practices with mutual respect.”
Environmental, social and governance topics will also be featured prominently at the 2021 conference, with a full main stage session on ESG for the first time in the event’s history. “This will be a dynamic session, discussing everything from financial disclosure of ESG to protecting supply chains of critical minerals. We’ll also have a discussion on how to evaluate the risks of an ESG program in merger and acquisition (M&A) decisions and a fireside chat with Ross Beaty to chat about mining, communities, biodiversity and land protection for parks,” Johnston noted.
In addition, the conference will present interviews with mining heavyweights such as Wheaton Precious Metals’ Randy Smallwood, and Beaty of Equinox Gold, as well as well-known mining analysts in the industry and representatives from larger companies like Microsoft.
Johnston, who joined AME as president and CEO in June 2019 after volunteering for the organization for many years, is a professional geologist and mining executive with over 15 years of experience in various facets of mineral exploration and mining in B.C. and the Yukon. Most recently Johnston was president of B.C. and Yukon explorer, Independence Gold.
“AME adapted technology from the very beginning, making sure we were a leaders and resource for our members,” Johnston said. “We have had many members calling us during the Covid-19 outbreak and asking for advice and looking for information. We also knew that people would be looking for ways to stay connected and to continue to learn, so we created a new Webinar series for people to join. Topics so far have included Big Data, ESG and Market Trends and there are more to come this year on things like permitting and community relations”
Among the many things AME has worked on throughout 2020 is working closely with the provincial government on the regulations to operate remote work camps safely during a pandemic. It also worked to make sure that the land packages of their members remain in good standing for an additional year if work could not be completed due to the virus. In addition the organization has worked alongside PDAC and others to extend the deadline to spend flow-through expenditures for an additional 12 months. “The federal government has released draft legislation to this effect and it is our understanding that it’s on track and will come to fruition.”
AME also hopes to continue its work on reducing permitting timelines in the province. “We have been working with the provincial government on reducing the time it takes to get an exploration permit to less than 90 days,” she said. “We need timelines that matches the investment cycle, the junior exploration budget cycle and the seasonal cycle while still maintaining the rigor and standards. The government has made some good progress this year, but we still have a ways to go to be competitive, timely and transparent with our system.”
AME is also advocating for a mineral exploration investment fund, which it envisions as an independent body that would invest in homegrown B.C.-based companies that demonstrate high ESG standards. “Part of the idea of the fund would be that it is supportive of local communities, so some of the profit could be directed towards building capacity in local communities and cleaning up legacy sites. There’s a great opportunity to promote the work going on in B.C., the relationship building between industry and First and Nations partners and highlighting what our members are doing on the ESG side of things.”
As for Roundup, the AME team asked itself what a virtual conference could look like and what kind of options there were, she said. “People need to be able to make connections, get their deals done, and we need to make it feel like a conference. The hardest part has been integrating the feel of a physical conferencing to a virtual platform, but we’ve found way for delegates to network and meet new people in every corner of the platform.”
“For our members who live and work in British Columbia, our Roundup is a very special time when they come out and enjoy chatting with one another,” she said. “In my own personal life, Roundup has become a great big family reunion with my mineral exploration family. It’s that connection, joy and opportunity to catch-up that is so important to create in the virtual platform – along with all of the great content of course. ”