The third World Mining Investment Congress began on Tuesday at Park Plaza in London with a host of international speakers aiming to explain the reasons behind the financial environment we find ourselves in and also, cautiously, predict what might follow in the near future. IM was in attendance on day one and was pleased to hear the majority of speakers talking about the ‘worst being over’ and that the majority of commodities had ‘bottomed out’. In between these interesting presentations – from amongst others, Frank Holmes, CEO and CIO, US Global Investors; Bart Melek, Global Commodity Strategist fro BMO Capital Markets; and Patricia Mohr, Vice President, Economics and Commodity Market Specialist, Scotiabank Group – talk of strategic investments was rife. Many investors were interested in talking gold; however there was also a strong focus on copper – perhaps on the back of the price breaking through the $5,000/t – oil and uranium.The major mining companies were represented by Rio Tinto. Chief Executive, Copper and Diamonds, Bret Clayton, like most of us, was unsure about the red metal’s prospects over the long term, however he was pleased with the current situation. On both copper and diamonds though he said that the company would not be making great leaps without concrete evidence of improvement; something that he did not currently see. Talking of the company’s focus in the short-term he said that it will make the most of its current resources, with exploration being on the back burner. In the afternoon, Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Mines and Steel Development in Nigeria outlined the new regulations and systems that the country has put in place in order to attract private investment in its minerals sector. Using comprehensive models from other established and successful mining countries, she explained that the country’s mineral policy has initially been met positively. Coined as “virgin territory” by the Minister, she said that the country had already received much interest from both junior and major mining companies and was hoping to build on this interest in the future.There was also a presentation from Todd Houlahan, Director of Global Mining for Innov-X Systems. Houlahan made a compelling case for the use of portable assaying equipment, showing case studies from two companies that had used the company’s portable XRF (X ray Fluorescence) analysers (featured in IM February 2009).On the whole the mood was buoyant and IM left with a sense that investment in mining projects will start to pick up towards the end of this year and that investors are starting to, once again, look at prospective mining projects with intent.