More than 1,300 people turned out for the American Exploration & Mining Association’s (AEMA) annual meeting in Reno, Nevada, during early December. This was the first in-person meeting after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors had to show proof of vaccination to attend. Some took advantage of the loophole in Nevada’s masking policy and removed them while holding a drink in one hand to talk, but the rest of the time, everyone complied for the most part.
The AEMA provides a voice for the mineral and metal mining industry from exploration to development through operations. Welcoming guests to the 127th annual meeting, AEMA President Mark Compton said, “It’s really good to meet in person again.” Last year, AEMA held a virtual conference, and he explained that the association did the best it could with a difficult situation. Throughout the conference, he recognized individuals and companies that worked with the association to advance mining and mineral exploration and support the industry.
The 2021 AEMA technical program had a heavy Alaskan influence. One of the opening sessions had five speakers talking about Alaska’s abundant mineral wealth and providing updates on projects and operations. Greg Lang, president and CEO, Nova Gold Resources, provided updates on the company’s Donlin Project in Alaska during a keynote luncheon on the opening day. In addition to highlighting the infrastructure that will be required to support the extraction of this 30-million-ounce gold deposit, such as a new port, a natural gas pipeline and a power plant, he also talked about the importance of the development for Alaskans, including the indigenous tribes.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy spoke during the luncheon on the second day of the event. To say he is upbeat about mining would be putting it mildly. Two of his three daughters have worked at mining operations in Alaska. Echoing the sentiments of many republican governors these days, he is advocating for Alaska’s primacy, explaining that the state is better positioned to manage its affairs, including natural resource development, than the federal government.
This was also the first AEMA meeting of the Biden administration. AEMA’s 2021 President Jeff Parshley, who is also a corporate consultant with SRK, provided some insight into the association’s recent initiatives. “We have had a lot of stakeholder engagement with the new administration,” Parshley said. “We have also had many meetings recently with regulators. Our approach is mostly positive and always bipartisan. We have a good story to tell and often we’re meeting with people who are unfamiliar with our industry on local, state and federal levels.” He explained that they have been very active recently with legislative and regulatory initiatives, including in the Congressional budget reconciliation packages that could have been severely detrimental to mining. Parshley said the work is ongoing with much to do, and those efforts have allowed the AEMA and the mining industry to share its story with policymakers on both sides of the aisle.