Roundup mineral exploration conference creates virtual convention centre

Organizers of the annual Vancouver conference try to maintain its social networking side.

Organizers of the annual Vancouver conference try to maintain its social networking side

The lounge on the online convention platform is one of the spaces delegates can visit to network with others. (Association for Mineral Exploration)

The head of the Association for Mineral Exploration in B.C. says organizers believe they've created a virtual roundup conference that will engage participants.

Association president Kendra Johnston estimates about 3,000 people could sign into the virtual event that runs Monday through Friday.

People in the mineral exploration industry are interested in technical information and results from exploration projects and there will be plenty of that, Johnston said.

Re-creating the sensation of being part of the crowd at the usually packed Vancouver convention centre is a bigger challenge, she said.

Kendra Johnston, the president of the Association for Mineral Exploration, says they've tried to simulate walking around a convention. (Ronnie J Photo)

The event planners have designed the online experience to be similar to walking around a venue. The names of other delegates in the same area will be displayed as users move around the virtual platform.

"You can always see who's around you in the space and you can click on anybody's name and start up an instant chat with them," said Johnston.

Longtime Yukon geologist Mike Burke began attending roundups when he was in university and has been to every one for more than 30 years.

One of the highlights is the annual Yukon Night normally held in a Vancouver hotel ballroom.

Burke has been asked to host this year's virtual Yukon Night from Whitehorse, which he describes as as series of informal chats.

Mike Burke is hosting the virtual Yukon Night on this year's online pandemic version of the roundup mineral exploration convention. (Chris WIndeyer/CBC)

"Some mine managers, people involved in the mines, some prospectors, some geologists and some business people [will be there]," he said

"So it's just to try and, you know, give people an idea of what to maybe expect about the upcoming year and start getting prepared for it," Burke said

But he said he will miss the social side of the roundup.

Burke said people in the mineral exploration business may spend most of their lives looking for a big discovery and never find it, but they don't lose hope.

"So you've got a group of optimists that are keen on finding things. And that sort of upbeat optimism is something that I'm definitely going to miss hanging out with for a few days." 

Yukon premier Sandy Silver talking to a packed room at the 2017 roundup. (Yukon Government)

Johnston said the theme of this year's roundup is leading through change, which is not limited to operating during a pandemic.

Environmental, social and governance issues are moving forward, she said, including evolving relationships between the industry and Indigenous peoples and working toward reconciliation.

"I think what's really important is showing respect for everybody, including everybody in the decision, understanding that your history might not be the same as somebody else's history, and your perception of history might not be the same as somebody else's perception of history," said Johnston.

There's also interest in the exploration for critical minerals, that are considered vital to the wellbeing of the world's economies, she said. Minerals used in green energy technology will also be a topic of discussion.