The past three days have been in Denver. My travels took me into the company of consultants to the financial side of the mining industry – those folk who consult to the titans of the industry who broker the mergers and take-overs, the resource estimations and high politics in world capital cities where the deals are made. Then I returned to my office in Vancouver where I share office space with a very small junior mining company still seeking that elusive ore body that will make them millionaires.

In Denver I chatted with a leader of the industry who was about to fly to Tokyo to consult to a consortium of investors and their banks who are reportedly planning to “buy” the iron ore resources of a far-flung country - maybe thereby stalling the Chinese and their bid to corner the market. He will probably bring in a team of twenty mining engineers, resource geologists, civil engineers who are expert in mine geo-waste, and assorted economists and analysts all armed with computers and codes we cannot begin to comprehend. They may sit for weeks pouring over the data, churning the spreadsheets, generating scenarios, and compiling estimates. The reports will be written in a language that circumscribes liability and opinion, that urges action but cautions about the long-term implicationsof post-closure perpetual care and maintenance. The titans will gather in wood-paneled boardrooms replete with silver and fine linen. They will snooze through presentations and debate; then vote to move or haggle, to finance billions or close, consolidate,and open mines, flinging the employees to the fair winds of fortune.

In Vancouver over morning coffee, I chatted with the geologist of the junior mining company. I joked with his senior advisor: a man like me, retired and happy to spill ideas to the young who still dream of fortunes in jungles and deserts, if only they could get their hands on that hitherto overlooked ore body; if only they could get their hands on investors with $20 million to gamble.

These two sides of the mining world are complimentary. At the beginning of the process are the hundreds and thousands of junior mining companies staffed by geologists, miners, and individualists who could never work in the tall towers and banks of the titans. The people who make up the juniors are rugged and resilient. They are fired up by the need to be themselves and to prove themselves outside of the large-corporate world. They spend long hours in the field looking for deposits; longer hours in core boxes seeking the gold in the rock; days over plans that might hint of seams beyondthe drilling; short burst in meeting rooms trying to gauge the honesty of the many who cluster around the adventure’; and telephone calls to lawyers trying to turn a buck. Some of them hit the high roll. They sell the deposit to Areva, seeking to secure uranium supplies for the French nuclear power industry. They put the seam up for auction and ten mid-sized mining companies submit bids – one twice the other nine, and they all drive away in new BMWs.

A the other end are the titan, the majors, the private investment groups, and the government departments with billions to spend, a mandate to corner an industry, the order to get a lock grip on resources, to own the means whereby to keep a nation supplied with energy and minerals. Think of coal and uranium. Think of the desire to hold gold not dollars, and you see what I mean.

As an investor you can easily go out and buy stock in the juniors. They will welcome you with open arms. They will send around an eager-faced, never-shaved young man to tell of opportunities beyondimagination. They will take your money and send you a share certificate. One in ten ofthe juniors you invest in will succeed - if your spread is good and wide, you too may buy a BMW.

You may get a belated chance to join the titans - buy shares in a major. But you will never own shares in Areva or a Japanese consortium controlling iron ore production in a far-flung country. That is beyondthe league of most of us who are not moguls of industry. All we can do is watch in wonder and envy. Or simply travel to Denver.