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The Drift: Northern Ontario Mining Showcase back to being a meet-and-greet live affair

Regional pavilion expected to showcase 110 mining supply exhibitors at global trade event
Metro Toronto Convention Centre 2
(Metro Toronto Convention Centre)

A year after experimenting in the virtual world of networking, the largest pavilion at the world's biggest mining show is back to being a face-to-face event.

The Northern Ontario Mining Showcase is back at full strength at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in mid-June in Toronto.

In order to provide enough wiggle room for pandemic-related restrictions to ease, PDAC organizers decided to push out the event date from its traditional time in early March to early summer when they'll be staging two events, an in-person gathering from June 13-15 and an online one from June 28-29.

The highly successful Showcase is an initiative of the City of Temiskaming Shores.

In mid-February, FedNor allocated $695,000 in funding for the showcase. Another $157,500 is earmarked for Temiskaming organizers to take the show to Vancouver for the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy & Petroleum (CIM) annual convention on May 1-4.

After a less-than-satisfying virtual affair in 2021, Temiskaming Shores economic development officer James Franks said they'll only be partaking in the in-person show.

"It was better than nothing," said Franks of the last year's PDAC. Online kiosks didn't accomplish much for the participating companies by way of translating to contacts, contracts and sales.

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Once government funding was announced, and Showcase registration ratcheted up, Franks said phones started ringing and emails starting filling the inbox.

Year after year, Franks said, Northern Ontario-based companies clearly see the value in being there for the international exposure and face time they get.

"That's how we know it's actually working."

For PDAC organizers, this year's event looks to be scaled down to some degree.

Instead of booking the entire Metro Toronto Convention Centre, PDAC will be limited to the venue's south hall in anticipation of between 15,000 and 20,000 convention delegates, down from the usual crowd upwards of 25,000.

"We've kept the same amount of real estate," said Franks, with 13,000 square feet to work with and kiosk space for 110 Northern Ontario-based exhibitors, their normal full slate of Northern Ontario-based mining supply and service companies.

What they do with that kind of acreage remains in flux as there's still discussion with PDAC organizers about whether the Showcase can resume its regular program of the Speaker's Series, technology demonstrations and lounge space.

The fully wired exhibitor kiosks run for a flat rate of $500. Franks said last week they were three-quarters full on registrations with a deadline set for April 15.

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This pavilion has had a presence at PDAC since 2010 when representatives from James and Elk Lake townships displayed the area's mining history in a small corner at the convention centre. The Showcase took its present form as a company meet-and-greet networking and tradeshow event in 2014.

"It got turned into businesses making real sales and making those connections that enabled them to grow," said Franks, enabling Northern companies to enter other markets and sometimes set up shop.

A release from the government said since 2015, the Showcase has been instrumental in generating sales for more than $80 million for Northern Ontario mining-related companies and creating 772 jobs.

"In my own community we've had small companies, literally mom-and-pop companies, tell us they've come back with contracts in Japan and Houston. They just wouldn't have had those opportunities if they weren't there (at PDAC). That's what makes this project so exciting for me. You can see it happening."

Also back for an encore is arguably one of the best hospitality get-togethers at PDAC.

Northern Ontario Night is booked at its usual venue in the Steam Whistle Brewery, June 13.

The event tends to be a shoulder-to-shoulder occasion of music, food and social networking. This year, in keeping with social distancing, Showcases organizers got the go-head to spill over into a newly expanded second hall and out into a patio space. 

"It's well known at PDAC so we get lots of businesses coming across (Bremner Boulevard) to see what's going on."

The Showcase's CIM Vancouver event has room for 25 businesses. Franks said last week they stood at 22 registrants.

Typically, he said, the CIM event tends to attract mine tech companies rather than manufacturers since technology products have the most appeal to this audience.