Diggers and Dealers: Where did it all begin....
By Andrew Bales Geology Consultant at Mining Plus
Originally published July 2017
I have a sneaking suspicion Diggers and Dealers was hatched over a cold beer at one of the finer establishments in the hustle and bustle of down town Kalgoorlie. Kalgoorlie never sleeps, it’s an ‘on the go’ Mining town 24/7. In fact, I am sure there would be few towns globally that could claim to have never stopped mining on the scale and offering the variety of commodities since initial establishment.
Kalgoorlie was founded in 1893 by gold prospectors Patrick (Paddy) Hannan, Tom Flanagan and Dan Shea. The rush was on, and rest is history... But what a history and what a location to host one of Australia’s premier mining conferences; Diggers and Dealers.
Diggers and Dealers was in fact first held back in 1983, at the Windsor Hotel in Perth, masterminded by two colourful Western Australian’s Peter Briggs and Dr Ron Wise. Afterward in 1992 Geoffrey Stokes (the owner of Kalgoorlie's famous Palace Hotel at the time) registered the Diggers & Dealers and started holding the conference in Kalgoorlie.
Back then, organisation was not one of Diggers' strengths. Kalgoorlie legend Ron Manners, who attended the first conference at the Palace, said only about 10 people attended, "each of us gave a presentation while the other nine threw things at the speaker," he said. (Digging Deep into History, Aug 2016).
Today it’s a far more polished event and has grown significantly to attract well over 2000 delegates.
There are always opportunities from both sides of the fence, diggers are most prominent on stage, and behind the scenes the dealers are always active, some years more so than others!
One great story comes to mind, that being the DeGrussa prospect discovered in 2009, by Sandfire Resources. Sandfire were down to their last dollar and an exploration program was due to be wrapped up, however Margaret Hawke a 25 year old geologist let the drilling crew drill one more hole, a hole the company couldn’t afford to drill. The hole unearthed massive sulphide rich copper gold mineralisation at depth and sent the share price sky rocketing and went to provide many companies an injection of optimism and a great deal of investment driven on the back of Sandfire’s success.
The conference is incredibly appealing due to stories such as Sandfires, and the potential for similar opportunities for other companies to be just around the corner. This combined with the rich colourful history and energy of Kalgoorlie helps to keep the event alive and even today pulls high profile international and local guests and high caliber speakers.
Diggers and Dealers may have come a far way from it's early years, but it hasn’t lost the fundamentals of both diggers and dealers connecting. The town and the event still offers a down-to-earth atmosphere and of course a touch of wild side which continues to attract thousands of people to this iconic event.