Permitting Poses Problems for US Miners

This edition of Engineering & Mining Journal (E&MJ) has a heavy copper influence. Four different articles shed light on the sector. Readers interested in the copper business should note the figure on the left hand page of CRU Copper Report (see p. 96), which shows how future copper demand will outstrip production with an inflection point starting in 2017-2018. That’s good news for an industry that seems hard-pressed for anything positive these days.

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Copper Leaders Gather in Santiago

Cesco Week and the CRU World Copper Conference, which was held during mid-April in Santiago, Chile, attracted copper miners, smelters and consumers. The lively discussions about the future of the industry generated more questions than answers. Even though copper prices have declined 40% since 2011, the prevailing consensus was that demand for copper would remain healthy and prices should improve in the future. While many speakers questioned whether copper prices would reach the super cycle levels again, it was clear that the trend will head in the right direction for miners and margins could improve significantly by 2017.

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Funding Challenges for the Mining Business

The mood could best be described as practical at this year’s Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) annual convention, which took place March 4 in Toronto. Capital for development has become scarce as more investors withdraw from the mining market and the financing that is available now comes with a considerable amount of “adult” supervision.

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Making Ends Meet

Several trends are taking place in the mining business. Mining companies are investing in operations, but they have to justify those investments with a healthy rate of return. Cost overruns have simply become unacceptable. They are also looking for ways to improve profit margins by reducing costs at profitable operations and idling those that are either less profitable or losing money. In many cases, they are looking to mechanization, automation and information technology to assist in that endeavor. The major mining companies are also selling or spinning off noncore mining operations to generate cash or get them off their books. A noncore asset could be a mine that produces an outlying metal or mineral with which they no longer have an interest; it could be located in a region they no longer find trustworthy; or both.

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From the Editor

Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief, EMJ, Engineering Mining Journal
Steve Fiscor heads a world class group of writers and editors serving the mining and construction markets. He has served as editor-in-chief for E&MJ since 2003 and Coal Age since 2001. He writes articles on mining and processing, organizes the technical programs for several conferences, and produces many of MMI's ancillary products.