Kristie Batten Mining News

Just before Easter, the ASX 300 Metals & Mining index was sitting at 3082.9 points after peaking at 3237.4 points in late January.

But by May 5, the index had dropped by more than 11% to 2727.2 points, a six-month low.

The investors and companies MNN has spoken to blamed the combination of Easter, ANZAC Day and school holidays for the waning investor interest.

And despite the “sell in May and go away” adage, things are slowly improving.

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index has been steadily increasing since May 5, and is up more than 5% since then.

Despite the flat spot, the sector is in far better shape than this time last year.

While base metals have come off the boil in recent weeks, copper is still up by 20.3% over the past 12 months, zinc is up by 35.5%, and even nickel is up by 5.7%.

Cobalt and lithium prices remain strong, and even the iron ore price is still around US$6 above where it was in May 2016.

Gold is lower than where it was this time 12 months ago, but at the current gold price of around A$1660 an ounce, producers are making strong margins and generating buckets of free cash.

Capital raisings so far in May have also highlighted that investors haven’t shunned the mining sector completely.

Despite the declining iron ore price, Fortescue Metals Group raised US$1.5 billion in US bond markets last week after initially seeking only $1 billion.

Salt Lake Potash secured A$17.6 million for a WA pilot plant, Kin Mining secured $10 million for ongoing Leonora gold drilling, and Mali gold explorer Oklo Resources raised nearly $9 million from institutions, including BlackRock.

Nickel explorer Buxton Resources raised $4 million for drilling yesterday, while cobalt player Celsius Resources raised $3.5 million last week.

Late last month, Eastern Goldfields raised $25 million for the completion of the refurbishment of its Davyhurst mill, while lithium hopeful Tawana Resources secured $15 million.

Far East Capital chairman Warwick Grigor said sentiment remained low with no buy signal yet.

“Having said that, the mood at the RIU Resources Roundup in Sydney last week was surprisingly positive,” he said.

“Perhaps there is just a level of acceptance out there that stocks go up and down, and at the moment it is going down.

“Why worry about that over which we can exert no control? It is not the end of the world.”

The RIU Sydney Resources Round-Up attracted more than 700 delegates, with healthy investor interest both in the presentations and around the exhibition.

One of the delegates included 14-year-old Angus Ferguson, who was seen working the booths asking questions.

He told MNN he was attracted to mining because it was “digging Australia out of debt”.

Ferguson started investing in mining stocks when he was 13, after learning from his grandma, who had brought him to the conference.

Among the companies he spoke to, Ferguson was particularly excited by Cobalt Blue, Broken Hill Prospecting and WPG Resources.

Westpac Institutional Bank chief economist Justin Smirk said the market would remain volatile this year, but the outlook was “reasonably constructive”.

Both Smirk and CRU head of Australia, consulting Alex Tonks told the conference that this year wouldn’t bring big gains in pricing, but rather a continuation of the recovery that started in 2016.

“We do expect 2016 to be a marginally better year than 2017,” he said.

Meanwhile, other conference organisers are reporting stronger interest than last year.

Resources Rising Stars organiser Read Corporate has reported more than 600 registrations for its annual conference, which kicks off on the Gold Coast in two weeks.

The program, which includes Northern Star Resources, Sandfire Resources and Dacian Gold, is also one of its biggest in years.

And Diggers & Dealers organisers have reported a big spike in the demand for accommodation ahead of its August event in Kalgoorlie.

“Numbers for Diggers and Dealers to be held in Kalgoorlie in August are significantly ahead of the same time last year,” Diggers chairman Nick Giorgetta said last week.

“We will meet again and our industry will again proudly present achievements for the year and strategies for the future.

“Seriously, the rumours of the death of the Australian resources industry is again greatly exaggerated!

Author: WASMA

The history of the Western Australian School of Mines Alumni (WASMA) reflects the ups and downs of the Western Australian School of Mines (WASM) and the role it has played in supporting graduates in a range of activities and events. It also describes the important role that graduates have played in ensuring WASM remains in Kalgoorlie. Learn more.