The age of austerity

The mining industry has had its fair share of ups and downs over the past seven years. If you could choose one word to describe the ethos of the sector during this time what would it be? I would choose ‘austerity’.
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Graffiti in Shoreditch, London - The Terminator
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Carly Leonida

I was appointed assistant editor at the title in September 2008, two weeks before the MINExpo tradeshow was held in Las Vegas, US. The industry was booming and it was an exciting time to be a newbie. I know I have a tendency to wax lyrical about this particular event, but to me, even seven years on, it still epitomises all that is good about mining. I was dazzled by the scale and spectacle of the event and all that it represented.

And then, of course, the Lehman Brothers investment bank collapsed, and just one month after all the pomp and glamour with which I was so enamoured, the mining industry, along with the rest of the global economy slowly crumbled in on itself.

Fast forward seven years and I’d like to say that the industry got right back up, dusted itself off and climbed back on the horse. But the road to recovery is rarely that straightforward. 

Buzz phrases like ‘bigger and better’, ‘more expensive’, ‘longer lead times’ were quickly replaced with ‘reduced costs’, ‘lower capital expenditure’ and ‘more efficiency’. And perhaps the old adage is true: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, because those companies that have managed to batten down the hatches and weather the storm seem to be smarter and more resilient for their experience.

This issue and its features sum up the current market fairly well. Commodity prices and demand are still down, and miners are looking for ways to reduce their operating expenditure and maximise their return on investment. Turn to page 38 to find out how new engine technologies and better fleet management can help slash your fuel costs, or page 26 for information on why, despite the slow burn, in-pit crushing and conveying systems are still relevant when investors are pushing for lower project CAPEX.

And the reason for this retrospective? I’m about to take a few months leave, and I can’t help but wonder what the industry will look like upon my return in early 2016. I suspect there will be some fairly significant changes, given the number of major tradeshows and conferences next year – Bauma, Expomin, MassMin, and MINExpo to name a few, alongside the usual suspects such as SME, CIM and PDAC.

There will likely be a flurry of new products released, major projects announced and, if the past few years are anything to go by, I wouldn’t rule out a few acquisitions (consolidation has featured heavily among OEMs and miners since the GFC).

The answer, of course, is that the industry will be whatever its employees make it. It has certainly advanced leaps and bounds since 2008 and, knowing the dynamism and tenacity of those working in the sector, I expect it will be in an even better place when I return.

On that note, I take my leave. For the rest of 2015, you will be in the very capable hands of the MM team. I look forward to catching up with you all next year and, finally, I have the opportunity to sign off with a catchphrase that I suspect all editors would secretly quite like to use: “I’ll be back.”