Miners set to arrive for PDAC as global coronavirus epidemic grows
“Shake hands with the world.”
So says the promotional blurb for the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada. The Toronto gathering is one of the industry’s biggest, drawing tens of thousands of miners, government officials and analysts.
But in the age of coronavirus, there isn’t as much hand-shaking going on. Awkward elbow bumps are in fashion -- for those who bothered to show up -- and an air of trepidation permeates the massive conference floors.
Attendance appears to be “substantially lower, probably 30 per cent, I would guess,” Keith Neumeyer, chief executive officer of First Majestic Silver Corp., said during an interview at Bloomberg’s Toronto office. His team walked the aisles on Sunday and saw a lot of empty spaces.
“Everyone is talking about it and no shaking of hands and elbow bumps only,” he said. “We can’t touch, we can’t hug.”
Many Chinese exhibitors stayed away. Other companies, such as Toronto-based McEwen Mining Inc., made a last-minute decision not to participate.
While other big conferences have been canceled, including the CERAWEEK summit in Houston that was due to start March 9, miners declared last week that the show would go on -- with vigorous sanitation protocols in place.
“It’s led to a different atmosphere here,” Matt Turner, chief executive officer of Rockhaven Resources Ltd., said after shaking hands. A 500 milliliter bottle of hand sanitizer sat on the table in front of him. “But miners are a pretty resilient bunch.”
All over the convention hall, giant signs say “Help Stop the Spread of Germs,” reminding attendees to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze, dispose of tissues in the garbage and wash their hands or use sanitizer.
Cleaning staff stand at the top of of escalators wiping rags over hand rails so as to disinfect them from the countless hands riding up and down every minute.
And inside the lecture halls, you can smell the pungent alcohol-based hand sanitizer permeating from attendees’ hands as they lather up in the middle of panel discussions.