This week marks the 80th year since the annual Prospector and Developers Association Convention was first held in 1932. An estimated 30,000 people will flock to the Toronto Metro Convention Centre to see industry participants show off their wares. I first attended PDAC in 1979 during the year that saw gold prices ascend to over $800 (approximately $2,300 in 2013 dollars) over a two-day period that contributed to my career-long appreciation for Canada’s mining industry and the people who put it on the map.
In the early days the convention was a place to look at deals — prospectors with samples and or claims, inventors with new extraction methods, brokers trying to secure financings, and current and prospective investors trying to see which new idea or new discovery might be revealed over a multitude of meetings and gallons of booze. It is said that more historic deals were consummated over martinis and handshakes in the Library Bar of the old Royal York Hotel than anywhere else in the city. It was a wondrous, exciting, and educational event and one that shaped my concept of the honour-based codes of verbal agreements and integrity in forging Canada’s mining industry.
But over the years the PDAC has evolved into something notably less than the venerable old institution that it was years back. Gone are the drill machines and the centrifugal jigs and the core tables, only to be replaced by an almost surreal collection of characters who are part-snake oil salesmen, part carnival barkers, and large-part highwaymen and cutthroats. Whereas there were projects and properties to be financed in the days of yore, many of these were private entities looking to go public or be sold to public companies. That was the beauty of PDAC — you could smell the deals in the walls of Hy’s or Winston’s or the Library Bar.