From the Editor - Steve Fiscor - March 2017

By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief

Optimism Rises in the Mining Business

 To say the mood at this year’s annual meeting of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) was noticeably upbeat would be an understatement. The event opened with a keynote address from Doug Silver, portfolio manager for Orion Mine Finance. Readers might recall that Orion financed the Stornaway diamond project in Canada. Silver was guardedly optimistic as many of the seasoned professionals in the mining business are these days. He pondered the industry’s ability to find financing and whether traditional financiers may already be too late for the next upward cycle.

The annual SME meeting took place in Denver this year and the technical sessions were packed with engineers as they normally are, but the biggest difference was the demeanor among the delegates. For the last eight years, this has been a depressed group of beat down dogs, as the despair from regulatory overreach took its toll. This year, however, they were standing tall, proud and happy.

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Embracing a Different Outlook and New Tools

Happy New Year! The big news this month is Sibanye Gold acquiring the Stillwater Mining Co., an iconic U.S. platinum group metals (PGMs) miner based in Montana. In a little less than four years, Sibanye, which was spun out of Gold Fields in February 2013, has grown from a South African gold miner to a South African precious metals miner to a multinational precious metals miner. Readers might recall that the company also acquired several South African platinum mining operations. Besides being a bit ambitious, what makes this move a little different from previous acquisitions is that Sibanye is pursuing a healthy mining company on the other side of the world. With Stillwater producing substantially more palladium than platinum, Sibanye would control roughly 13% of global platinum and palladium production and become the third largest producer of both metals. Sibanye has placed a big bet on PGMs and a classic U.S. mining operation.

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Bidding Farewell to 2016

As 2017 dawns, the mining industry should take stock with what occurred in 2016. The year did not start well. Major mining companies that had either sold assets or optimized existing operations were contending with low commodity prices and shrinking profit margins. Vale and BHP Billiton were dealing with the environmental disasters caused by the Samarco tailings dam failure in Brazil. As the year wore on, forest fires would ravage oil sands mining operations in Alberta. For all the despair, however, the year ended on a high note with most people scratching their heads wondering what will happen in 2017.

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Miners Should Benefit From Trump Win

Steve Fiscor/Editor-in-Chief

It happened in U.K. earlier this year and now it has happened here in the U.S. A movement that the mainstream media and the political elite had discounted will now change the direction of the country and possibly alter the global economy. Voters, many of whom felt their voices were not being heard, turned out to support Donald J. Trump, a billionaire businessman who decided to take on the establishment. As the ballots were tallied, it became clear that a huge turnout in rural areas was offsetting the votes cast in the urban centers. He not only pulled off a political upset that shocked the left, but the Republicans also walked away with a majority in both houses of Congress.

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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.