Prospectors and Developers Association of CanadaGabrielle Klemt - 2A Geological
Posted on: March 10, 2017
How can I describe my feelings over the course of three days I spent at the PDAC (Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada) convention in Toronto? Well let’s start with overwhelmed, excited, terrified, psyched, and exhausted. It was a full-on, non-stop four days that started with my volunteer training on Saturday, and ended when I passed out on the bus back to Waterloo on Tuesday evening.
One thing that definitely struck me as I wandered around listening to conversations and psyching myself up to engage people in conversations was that I had found my people. At last, I had discovered the elusive group I will one day become a part of, a group that had seemed so mystical and far-off here in Waterloo where I am one of a class of 37.
At last, I could see with my own eyes companies I could only dream of working for a week before. And now, with a business card in my pocket and a pen in my hand, that job was still just a dream but it was looking more attainable.
Given what a fantastic opportunity this was to meet company representatives, get free swag and mingle with the most important people in the mining and geology industry, I am incredibly disappointed that our university does not do for its students what so many other schools across the country do. Not only do those schools help fundraise so that students from as far away as Memorial University could come to PDAC, they get time off school as well. Here I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of an industry I had imagined was as small as my program, and I had to also stress about missing school and handing in assignments!
To give you some back story, PDAC is divided into the Investor’s Exchange and the Trade Show. The former is where all the junior mining companies and prospectors come to show off the latest finds they’ve made and hopefully secure financial backing to further develop their projects. You’ll also find more senior, well-known mining and mineral companies here, because everyone needs a little bit more investment sometimes. This is where the money is. Literally and figuratively, because I actually got to hold a gold bar at one point that weighed more than a baby. In the Core Shack, where prospectors bring their best core to show off what a fantastic investment they would be, you can literally sense the hundreds of thousands of dollars trading “hands” by the second all around you!
The Trade Show encompasses all the mining support companies, like the people who do aerologic surveys or the companies that make drill rigs. And yes, there were full drill rigs there that you could pretend to operate and feel like a boss. Yup, I realize how nerdy that sounds. This is also where you find any university representation (turns out Waterloo had a booth!) and also governments. There’s the geological surveys of the US, Canada, Ontario, BC, Quebec, etc. as well as representatives from the mining departments of federal governments from Afghanistan to Australia to Peru to Russia and everywhere in between. This convention is not only international, it’s the biggest of its kind in the world! Over 23,000 people walked through the buildings over the course of four days – the next biggest one is in South Africa and hosts only about 5,000!
Ignoring the responsibilities that waited for me back in Waterloo and reality, I threw myself wholeheartedly into the frenzy that is PDAC. Luckily, as a volunteer, I had access to all sorts of extra things from free luncheons to first choice of company tours and resume critiques. Additionally, since I was answering everyone’s questions, I became very comfortable with the layout of the massive convention which held over 800 booths, as well as the daily schedule of talks, tours, and after-hours receptions.
On Sunday, the first day of the convention, I spent the morning dressed like a bumblebee in a bright gold shirt and hat and black pants, very hard to miss. My volunteer shift consisted mostly of helping people find the companies they were looking for and directing people to the washroom. Occasionally someone would stop and talk, but most people at PDAC are on a mission. When my shift was done, I spent the time between lunch and a PDAC Survival Skills seminar wandering around the North building trade show collecting free samples of everything from buttons and stickers to rock-shaped stress balls.
The next day I arrived bright and early once more, ready to put in practice the skills I had dutifully taken notes on the day before and get my resume critiqued: it’s all about the networking and putting yourself out there. Just a disclaimer, I did not come to PDAC with the intention of finding a job or scouting future employers. I came because when my sister’s friend told me it was a good time and a cool way to meet people in the industry back in October, I signed up and forgot about my commitment until late December when it struck me that I had perhaps put a few too many items on my 2A plate. I decided to go all the same because I am a sucker for new experiences and I also hate cancelling on people, especially those I don’t know.
When I arrived for my training on Saturday, I was overwhelmed and felt extremely out of my depth. We walked briefly through the South Building Trade Show and then the Investors Exchange and it think my eyes were the size of saucers just trying to take in exactly how many booths there were at this event. This was before the people arrived and somehow, I was already panicking.
But back to Monday, my third day of PDAC and I was ready to show the people of the industry just what I was made of. I was going to get those 25 business cards they told me to get and I was going to make sure they remembered who I was. Sadly, I came rather unprepared without business cards of my own; my personality would have to suffice. After my resume critique, I jumped into a company tour for students to introduce us to some “student-friendly” companies, or companies willing to hire someone without a degree and 6 years of relevant work experience. It was interesting but there were only three companies that I went back to again: Agnico Eagle, Teck, and a Wilderness first aid company.
Before I knew it, I had to head up to the Mineral Outlook Luncheon, where the guest speaker Dr. Dambisa Moyo, a 3-time New York Times Bestselling author on economics, gave a talk on the future of geopolitics and where the mining and mineral exploration industry is headed. You as a reader likely don’t know this, but the mining sector has taken a major hit in the last few years with the price of gold and other important commodities falling drastically, making mining less economically profitable and making it very difficult for an aspiring young student to get into the industry. If there is one thing that PDAC taught me, it’s that people in this industry are very very hopeful for a golden future. Prices have started to rise and everyone I talked to told me how lucky I was to be getting into the industry when I graduate because, so they say, gold will be at its peak once again. In other words: buy gold now.
The great thing about the luncheon, other than the fascinating talk, was the people who I sat with at my table. It was a paid event and everyone there had bought their plate (a delicious 3-course meal) to be at the lunch, as a volunteer I got to go for free. I happened to sit with , by accident, three people who all work in or near Denver, as well as two other people from Canada, and we had a great discussion about our separate professions and reasons for being at PDAC, the places we were from, and inevitably Trump.
When I left the lunch, many business cards later, I headed to the Trade Show and wandered around for a while drinking my free beer and chatting with random booths. I ended up at the Memorial University booth and the woman and I got to talking about geophysics, the area in which she is doing her PhD. As so often happens at PDAC, we struck it off and I got an invite to a reception that evening for Geosoft, a company that makes a very powerful geophysics software. So, after a symposium on Women in Mining, we headed out to the hotel for more networking, free appetizers and an open bar. By the time I got home Monday night I was exhausted and ready to fall into bed, unfortunately I had an assignment to do for Wednesday.
Tuesday, I was determined to finally check out the Investor’s Exchange, so after my volunteer shift, and the Student Networking Luncheon (honestly, it’s worth going to PDAC just for all the free meals and *cough* alcohol) I put on my business casual, squared my shoulders and set off. By the time I was half-way through the booths I was mentally drained and desperately in need of the free cappuccinos offered by so many of the companies (it was becoming very obvious why so many offered coffee!). I did have some good exchanges though and got some positive feedback on my style of approach when I introduced myself to a group of geologists and mining engineers and was told I’d go far simply because I had dared to approach them and introduce myself and suggest that with a co-op student they could get a tax rebate.
However, when the floors closed at 5, I was ready to set my very full goody bag down and put my feet up. It was a weekend well worth the stress, even if I don’t get a job out of it. I had got my first glimpse into the world of rocks and metal that I so desperately wanted to be a part of, and this first taste has only made me hungry for even more. You better believe I’m going back next year with better strategies and actual business cards!