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From The Editor
An April for the Archives
During April 2013, the mining business suffered some setbacks. As can be seen on the cover of this month’s edition, the miners at Kennecott Utah Copper’s Bingham Canyon mine now face an uncertain future. Prices for most metals declined during the month, but it was the falling price of gold that garnered the most attention. Many new mining CEOs were preparing first quarter earnings reports, announcing their plans for the future, deciding what paths to pursue, and which projects to table. Scaling back ambitious plans is never easy for mining engineers. Sometimes the market or natural forces make the decision for them.
MSHA Changes its POV Policy
On January 17, the U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) issued a final rule that revises the agency’s pattern of violations (POV) regulations (30 CFR, Title 104), which became effective on March 25. The move strengthens MSHA’s hand, according to the agency, to respond to dangerous mining conditions and improve safety and health conditions for the nation’s miners. While no regulatory policy changes would surprise mining companies after the re-election of President Obama, almost all of them thought the move by the agency was a step too far. Now the National Mining Association (NMA) will challenge the final rule in the courts.
Sympathy for the Junior Miners
The mood at this year’s Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) was little a more dour than years past. Prior to each presentation, the geologists would open with, “We know it’s gloomy out there, but…” They would then continue to speak to a crowded room of professionals eager to hear their presentations.
Indaba Debates the Future of African Mining
As this edition of E&MJ was going to press, the annual Investing in African Mining Indaba was getting under way. E&MJ will carry a full report in the March 2013 edition, but suffice it to say the dialogue had taken on a new sense of urgency in light of the Marikana tragedy and the reforms that the mining sector will see in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Last year’s nationalism and anti-mining rhetoric has given way to whether Africans can change the business model quickly enough to remain competitive.
Mining Deals Proceed with Interesting Twists
As 2012 winds to a close, several announcements surprised the mining industry. No, it wasn’t another executive deciding to pursue a new career path. Although this year might be remembered as the year of the revolving door for mining CEOs. In the last month three deals were announced that were somewhat unforeseen and each of them included an unexpected turn of events.
Resilience is What Makes Miners Successful
The cover of this month’s magazine is somewhat deceptive. Yes, it’s a beautiful photo of Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine mine and it looks like a great place for a miners picnic. Nine months out of the year, however, one probably wouldn’t want to be standing in that location without a parka. Working in the Canadian North (Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories), which is way north for most North Americans, has to be one of the most difficult places to earn a living.
A Labor Legacy or Failed Redistribution of Wealth?
As this edition of E&MJ was going to press, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the largest platinum miner, had dismissed 12,000 striking miners. Wildcat strikes were spreading beyond the bushveld to the rand. Miners had walked off the job at gold mines and iron ore mines. It’s now estimated that more than 100,000 miners in South Africa were on strike (See, News-Africa, p. 18), seeking wage-related concessions.
Training Good People to Be Great Miners
The mining industry has reached another fork in the road during 2012. The industry will now transition from scaling up great quantities of production capacity to optimizing the new projects they have recently brought online, while maintaining existing projects. As prices for metals soften, managers will turn their attention again to costs and profit margins.
Protests in Peru Turn Violent
At least five people were killed and many others injured during violent protests against mining activities in northern Peru during July. Environmental activist Marco Arana, a priest and one of three leaders of the movement, was briefly detained by authorities. Peruvian President Ollanta Humala called for a State of Emergency, which has now been extended.
Indonesia: A Rich Region of Uncertainty
Readers have no doubt noticed a rising tide of resource nationalism in E&MJ. The activities range from takings (See Bolivia Nationalizes, p. 5) to new mining laws (See Indonesia’s Mining Law, p. 66). There are, of course, two sides to every lively debate. In this month’s report on Indonesia, E&MJ provides the viewpoint from the politicians of a developing nation trying to claw back what they see as lost opportunities.
Rio+20 and the Mining Sector
Rio de Janeiro will soon host world leaders, along with thousands of others including those from the private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), at the Rio+20 Conference (www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/). The event will take place June 20-22, 2012—the 20th anniversary of the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development. The topics for discussion will revolve around reducing poverty, advancing social equity and ensuring environmental protection as the world’s population grows. Whether Rio+20 succeeds or fails, the mining business will play an important role in a sustainable outcome for all three of those areas.
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- Learning from Coal Disasters
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