Last week, I was at the 2012 SME Annual Meeting & Exhibit in Seattle, WA. The Meeting was under the theme, “Mine to Market: Now It’s Global.” As usual, the Meeting was well attended (5,102 attendees) with both the Exhibit and technical sessions providing valuable information for mining professionals. For me, the Meeting started on Friday with the SME/NSSGA (National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association) Student Design Competition. As the faculty advisor for the Missouri University of Science & Technology teams, I was there with one of our teams that made it to the final (six teams make it to the final each year). Then on Saturday, my colleague, Dr. Hooman Askari-Nasab (Assistant Prof, University of Alberta) and I taught a short-course on Truck-Shovel Simulation. The course was attended by two students, some consultants and engineering managers from several companies. The discussions in the course were really high level and the experience was fulfilling and educational for us. The Exhibit was opened on Sunday with all the usual equipment manufacturers, service providers and several mining companies represented. Several mining schools also had exhibits at this year’s meeting.
Monday (February 20, 2012) saw the keynote session, which was the official opening of the Meeting. The keynote sessions are usually one of my favorites, because you get to listen to industry leaders and the discussions are good to gauge the pulse of the industry. And this year’s was no different. The speakers were Christopher B. McGill (Managing Director, Policy Analysis at the American Gas Association), Roderick G. Eggert (Professor & Director, Division of Economics and Business at Colorado School of Mines), David Cole (President and CEO of Eurasian Minerals) and Jeff Huspeni (VP, Asia-Pacific at Newmont Mining). Roderick Eggert and Christopher McGill set the stage by making the argument for the importance of mining and natural gas production to the World’s economy. David Cole then provided a discussion on the role of junior mining companies in finding reserves to replace the ones we are currently mining. He provided insight into the difficulty in finding reserves in today’s environment, despite the increased exploration expenditures. Jeff Huspeni wrapped it up with a discussion that highlighted the importance of corporate social responsibility and sustainability in today’s environment.
The thoughts from Newmont’s Jeff Huspeni were the beginning of a recurring theme throughout the Meeting. In various discussions with industry leaders throughout the Meeting, I was reminded of the increasing awareness of our industry to the need to engage the local community and other stakeholders in discussions around sustainability in order to gain or maintain our social license to operate. One clear example of this, is SME’s point man to lead a taskforce preparing input for the next UN discussion on sustainability and materials. SME’s Board has chosen past president, Dr. Nikhil Trivedi to lead this taskforce. It is safe to say, 10 years ago, SME may not even be interested in such a taskforce, let alone appoint a past president to lead one!
There is increasing awareness that the sustainability, particularly the social aspects, of a project is an important aspect of a project. Several projects around the World have had permits blocked or projects halted because of local community opposition (e.g. several projects in Peru).
As one would expect, there were also some interesting presentations in the technical sessions. I presented two talks in two sessions – Coal & Energy: Mine Environmental Reclamation and Coal & Energy: Surface Mining II. The first was a presentation on “Monitoring Mine Land for Stray CO2 Hazards“, which covered research that we did with funding from the US Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation & Enforcement (OSMRE). The full report and OSMRE’s factsheet on the research are available online. The second was a presentation on “Improving Truck-Shovel Energy Efficiency through Discrete Event Modeling.” The full report can be found online.
Of course, I cannot end my thoughts without showing my favorite exhibit. The Missouri University of Science & Technology exhibit was a hit! But I am biased. Besides that, the CAT stand was my favorite (see below). Of course, I am biased towards surface mining!
Did you attend the conference? What were your impressions? What was your favorite exhibit/stand? Any thoughts on the role sustainability and community acceptance will play in mining in the future? Share you thoughts here.