Diggers - and dealers - to shine
Eliza Jagusiak and Graham Thomson packing delegate bags.

This is it. It's Diggin' & Dealin' time again as Kalgoorlie-Boulder welcomes 1900 blokes and three women, for mining's biggest annual swim-through since the Poseidon nickel boom days in 1969.

For all the giggles about Diggers night-time activities, moaning and groaning about a dearth of news - half the companies presented published copies of their presentations to the ASX platform yesterday - and regular complaints that the organising committee is too inward looking, it remains Australia's premier industry event.

And the awards handed out at the Wednesday night gala dinner come with a fair degree of prestige and no shortage of disappointment when those who thought they'd win do not.

It reminds the Bull of a Wednesday night incident a few years ago when there was what sounded like a massive explosion at the line-up of porta-dunnies outside the marquee where the awards dinner is held. Turns out one miner, dismayed at missing out on the awards, vented some of his big-fisted frustration on the inside wall of a dunny, to thundering effect.

There will be more disappointment this year though the Bull can't guarantee a dunny wall punch-up.

It would be funny - though not undeserved - if Raleigh Finlayson's Saracen Minerals Holdings won the gong for buying the Thunderbox mine in January.

Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill Holdings is regarded as a shoe-in for Dealer of the Year for that little matter of raising more than $7 billion on global debt markets in March to complete funding for the $10 billion namesake iron ore project in the Pilbara.

Rinehart's family company Hancock Prospecting is a previous Dealer winner (2006, 2012) but then, her deals are getting bigger, too.

This may not please Billy "the Kid" Beament, who most will agree has pulled off a series of screamers to turn Northern Star Resources into a multi-mine gold industry leader.

And what about Tony Poli, thought to be a Diggers' delegate, who managed to turn a 10-year effort with Aquila Resources into a $1.4 billion windfall for shareholders, including himself. It was the biggest buyout of a local miner since Kerry Harmanis (Dealer 2008) sold Jubilee Mines to Xstrata for $3.1 billion in 2007.

Mark Creasy also managed to do a decent deal, selling 30 per cent of Nova-Bollinger to Digger 2013 winner Sirius Resources in return for more stock and some cash.

And let's not forget Mike Young, of BC Iron fame, who reckons he should get the gong for encouraging Andrew Forrest to invest in Youngie's new vehicle, Energy and Minerals Australia.

The only gong Forrest and Fortescue Metals Group haven't won is Digger, which could happen this year to reflect the company's achievement of the 155 million tonne a year iron ore milestone.

The Digger certainly won't go back to the inaugural winner, Joe Gutnick (1997), though a gold recipient - AngloGold Ashanti's Tropicana which poured first gold in September, or maybe Allan Kelly's Doray Minerals which poured first gold last August - is likely.

For all the criticism that Diggers chief and part-time skimpy John Langford and his awards committee cop each year for their choice of recipients - this year immortalised on an honour board inside the Goldfields Arts Centre - there are rarely grizzles about who gets the GJ Stokes Memorial gong for their contribution to the industry.

This year's recipient should again be a worthy one.

Which leaves the media award, which the Bull is still trying to get Langers to rename The Bullduster.

Here's to hope and a good Diggers & Dealers.

Keep up to date with everything happening at Diggers on these pages, and on thewest.com.au/diggers


  • AUSDRILL AFFAIR

Ausdrill's stall at Diggers is usually a friendly affair though this year may be more subdued.

The mining contractor yesterday placed its shares in a trading halt pending an update on likely asset impairments, while Monday looms as the start date of the trial of Ausdrill boss Ron Sayers and close friend and business partner Peter Bartlett on tax conspiracy charges.


  • DIAMOND DUST-UP

It was only a matter of time before tensions in the Kimberley Diamonds camp boiled over completely.

That happened yesterday when KDL said it had received what "purported" to be requestion notices under which unnamed shareholders want to roll chairman Alex Alexander, managing director Noel Halgreen, executive director Rod Sainty and non-executive board member Mark Qiu.

In their place, the dissidents want Hugh Thomas and Rob Thompson elected, to join Rupert Baring, the only KDL director not being targeted.

Readers will recall that KDL botched negotiations with major customer Tiffany & Co over prices for yellow diamonds from its Ellendale mine. The fallout sparked a bitter internal battle between Alexander, also the company's chief negotiator, and managing director Lee-Anne de Bruin, who resigned.

KDL said yesterday it was "obtaining advice in relation to these notices".


  • IT'S A JUNGLE

The team at Wood & Grieve Engineers have a well-earned reputation for handling most challenges since Kip Grieve and Tony Wood set up the firm in Perth in 1965.

Tomorrow, another opportunity for WGE's directors to test their abilities.

Under the leadership of chief executive Jose Granado - who apparently is no slouch with the tennis racket, even if his preference is for a museum-ripe wood frame - Wood & Grieve's eight directors will embark on a 10-day trek through the jungles of North Borneo.

The pinnacle, so to speak, will be the night-time ascent of the 4000m high Mt Kinabalu, South East Asia's biggest monolith.

The 75km trek starts in Sandakaan, at the site of a former prisoner-of-war camp, and is inspired by the ANZACs.

Many of the Wood & Grieve team completed the Kokoda trek in 2006 and this latest adventure is another great team-building opportunity. The directors will be paying their own way. Some of them are also members of the Wood & Grieve rock band and are threatening to take some of their instruments. Talk about a culture shock. For the villagers in North Borneo.


  • YOWIE: THE MOVIE

Everyone's favourite Perth-based manufacturer of mythical chocolate creatures, Yowie Group, has been hard at work over the June quarter, revealing 1.6 million of the little fellas had been made at its Florida plant.

More intriguing though was an update in its quarterly report, which revealed the company has been in meetings with "major Hollywood studios" to develop a Yowie animated feature film.

No word yet on the plot.

But sources say it revolves around a green ogre-looking Yowie, living peacefully in a swamp, who finds his land squatted by a mass of fairy-tale characters including a talking donkey . . . hang on.

The Yowie product even created a short-lived Twitter storm last month, with the hashtag #bringbackmyYowie circulating around Australia.

Chairman and former mining engineer *Wayne Loxton *told WestBusiness in April an Australian release of the one-time Cadbury creations was on its agenda.

However, no updates on a release have been forthcoming.

For the record - and though the company burnt through $3.3 million over the quarter - it has been one of WA's better share price performers over the past six months, jumping from 23¢ in February to 70¢ yesterday.


  • NIDO SUSPENSE

Nido Petroleum placed its shares in suspension yesterday while it and new biggest shareholder, Bangchak Petroleum Public Company, thrash out a way forward.

Bangchak has set a minimum price, 5.5¢, which is what it is paying its countryman, Chatchai Yenbamroong, for the 19.7 per cent Nido stake.

Yenbamroong is no stranger to the Perth oil and gas scene, as one of Tap Oil's biggest shareholders and a 10 per cent partner in Tap's Manora oil project in the Gulf of Thailand. Manora is scheduled to produce first oil towards the end of this quarter, which could prompt a rerating of Tap's share price.


  • PURE BULL

"After successive first-half declines in average utilisation rates over the last three years, we now feel we are at, or approaching, market bottom, unless commodity prices for mined products fall materially from existing levels or mining companies are not successful in pushing forward planned mine expansion or development activities."

Boart Longyear CEO Richard O'Brien

With Nick Sas

and Peter Williams

The West Australian

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