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Northern Ontario Mining Showcase goes virtual in 2021

Registrations are open for regional pavilion at 2021 PDAC convention
Northern Ontario Mining Showcase trade show floor
The Northern Ontario Mining Showcase will take a virtual format at the 2021 PDAC convention.

The Northern Ontario Mining Showcase will have a virtual presence at the 2021 convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC).

That's confirmed by James Franks, economic development officer with the City of Temiskaming Shores, the host municipality of the successful regional pavilion held at the world's premier mining convention in early March.

Due to the pandemic, PDAC announced in September the conference would be held virtually for the first time in its almost 90-year history. The 2021 PDAC convention is scheduled for March 8-11.

Franks said Showcase organizers elected to do the same in piggybacking onto PDAC after they polled and received favourable responses from their network of previous exhibitors.

Online registrations are being taken through the Showcase website. As of Christmas week, 30 businesses have registered.

Franks said first right of refusal has been extended to the 110 exhibitors from last spring's show to reclaim their spots. The deadline is Dec. 24.

After that, registration for virtual booths is open to newcomers.

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Franks expects to have somewhere between 65 and 75 online exhibitors signed up when he submits a final list to PDAC on Jan.15.

"We figured we're going to be down from previous years. Some businesses said they're not not sure if they're ready to do online with a virtual trade show. Others are looking at the time commitments."

Discussions continue with PDAC organizers on how northern companies will be incorporated and displayed onto the convention website. 

There will be a category search engine to find suppliers and service companies with individual landing sites, website links, chat functions, and space to post corporate videos.

"Our role is going to be to make sure our Northern Ontario folks are in all the right places when people around the world click on them," said Franks.

"Send us the basic information and we'll make sure everything's loaded on the site for them. We're working with PDAC to try to get them to brand our pages."

The Showcase entrance fee remains the same at $500. But Franks reminds everyone that PDAC is building an entirely new web platform from scratch.

FedNor, the federal funding agency that traditionally sponsors and subsidies the Showcase, has not announced that it's back on board for 2021.

But in their application to FedNor, Franks said if they can't offer exhibitors a physical kiosk on the trade show floor, maybe they can secure funds for companies to make upgrades to their websites, provide social media training, or have a video prepared for PDAC.

"The intent of the program switched to, how can we make sure that our Northern Ontario businesses are prepared for an online world," said Franks, "and provide services ahead of time to ensure they're ready for the event itself."

The Showcase will not offer its own program of featured speakers, technology or product demonstrations, as had been developed in recent years.

Though Franks is understandably nervous about the outcome, he also believes there's huge potential for suppliers to gain even greater exposure to international markets.

As many have discovered during this pandemic year, there's been an abundance of opportunity through web presentation platforms, like ZOOM, to attend conventions and conferences that many people likely would never have participated in due to time constraints, distance and budget.

"There were 23,000 people last year. We're not sure how many are going to be online this year, but it could be double that," said Franks.

"The cost to attend (the 2020 PDAC convention) from China was $10,000. This year it's $400. 

"We're hoping that the (online) numbers will increase for our exhibitors to be seen. But we don't know; there's no crystal ball. We just gotta roll with it and see if it's valuable or not."

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

Applications will be open to mining supply companies operating in Northern Ontario, but only those businesses meeting the following base criteria will be considered:

  • Your business must have operations located in Northern Ontario
  • Your company must directly supply or have significant potential to supply products and services which are directly tied to the development, operation, management, or reclamation of mines.
  • Your company must currently sell or have the potential to sell products and/or services to the mining industry outside of Northern Ontario.
  • Your company must have fewer than 500 employees.
  • A minimum of 25 per cent of your company’s total workforce must be living and working in Northern Ontario.