On November 26, 2009, members of the Mining branch of Germany’s Machinery Manufacturers Association (VDMA) held their annual meeting at the Zeche Zollverein in Essen. This former coal mine and coking operation is now a unique complex of display, museum and recreational facilities on the European Industrial Heritage Route. In 2010, the city and others in the Ruhr valley have combined forces as this year’s European City of Culture.

As usual the event started with a press conference in the morning covering the VDMA’s estimates for mining machinery sales revenues in 2009. These were presented by the current branch chairman Dr. Paul Rheinländer, managing director of Gebr. Eickhoff Maschinenfabrik und Eisengiesserei GmbH, assisted by former chairman and now honorary president Peter Jochums and the branch officials headed by manager Joachim Schmid.

The general downward trend in machinery manufacture and plant engineering may have contributed to Germany losing the world’s major exporter ranking to China, but statistics for the first nine months indicate that 2009 figures for mining machinery revenues will be very good. Overall, the branch members did not suffer the substantial numbers of order cancellations reported by some European-based suppliers. Conse-
quently, 2009 revenues are expected to be approximately 10% higher than the €3.64 billion achieved in 2008, reaching around €4 billion, which would be a new record. The 2008 figure, it may be noted, was somewhat higher than the VDMA had forecast at the 2008 annual meeting.

Domestic sales are expected to rise from €0.51 billion in 2008 to €0.55 billion. And, despite lower predicted earnings from sales to Russia, the United States, India and Australia, total 2009 export revenues are forecast at €3.44 billion, as compared with €3.13 billion in the previous year. This assessment is based on higher revenues from the Chinese market (€226 million vs €181 million in 2008), as well as increased deliveries to countries in Central (+110%) and South (+100%) America. These latter gains have more than repaid the intensive marketing efforts made in these countries with VDMA help. Sales to the Czech Republic rose by 530% to €58 million. Russia will nevertheless retain its position as Germany’s largest market for mining machinery.

However, declared Rheinländer, these anticipated figures are no grounds for euphoria. Order intakes during 2009 have decreased sharply, in some cases by 50%, so revenues in the first part of 2010 are likely to be depressed. On the bright side, early signs of a mining market recovery as the year progresses, backed up by customer comment, suggest that some orders may be reinstated and new ones placed. Although it was too early to make a firm forecast for 2010, the VDMA hopes that members will be able to maintain annual revenues at the anticipated 2009 level. “If we can manage to do so, the German mining equipment manufacturers will have survived the financial and economic crisis in really good shape, and some of us will even have managed to grow during this period of crisis,” said Rheinländer.

Meanwhile, the VDMA plans to bring together international mining companies and specialist universities to develop strategies to meet future challenges and will again be an active participant at bauma. Rheinländer commented that this exhibition has grown to be an important platform for the mining machinery industry and will most probably develop further as a mining industry meeting place.

During the afternoon member company representatives assembled to meet old friends and colleagues ahead of an evening of industry-relevant presentations. These were initiated by a broad-ranging address by Rheinländer, followed by Dr. Martin Junker who explained RAG Mining Solutions’ strategy for penetrating the world market for coal mining expertise and equipment. Sascha Bölling, managing director of S.T. Bölling S.A., discussed regional mining development in Argentina from an exploration firm’s point of view and Peter Eysel, senior project manager with KfW IPEX-Bank, examined  current challenges and trends in raw materials project financing.