Like everyone around the world, for miners and operators, 2021 was another surprisingly abnormal year. When not in the field, we still needed to hunker down in homes and conduct visits by video. International travel to projects and events was still severely limited.
But as I hope you will glean from this month's edition on leading projects and initiatives in mining over the year, the industry was certainly not as static as we were. Innovation forged ahead, adapted to the changing winds and is again helping mining to emerge into the bright light of 2022 as a nimbler, more tech-savvy and leaner industry.
From autonomous software developer Cygyn, we hear how some mine operators are no longer overly cautious on adopting autonomous solutions, with some willing to invest in "very innovative" technology.
"Autonomy has been overhyped a little bit, specifically about what it can do, and for that reason, some people have unrealistic expectations," says the company's director of engineering, Tim Varecka.
"That means that instead of being wowed by autonomous vehicle technology, they're disappointed. They [the mining companies] should be wowed by it because it is amazing what it can do."
Advances in technology are also linking the operational world to the corporate realm, and Nordgold discusses a productivity software tool it has developed that can aggregate all operating and financial data in real-time so operators can identify the primary source of any change in performance.
[PQ] Scrutiny over mining's licence to operate will reach heights hitherto unknown in 2022
Tailings have been high on the agenda this year, and our new Americas editor, Jax Jacobsen takes a hard, critical look at what has been achieved by standards, and new technologies.
The Brumadinho disaster "is proving to be a gamechanger in the world of tailings" Jax was told by Charles Dumaresq, VP of Science and Environmental Management at the Mining Association of Canada.
New standards "will help get companies work through a bigger picture of tailings management, and hopefully get those companies in a better place in terms of their overall governance structures, and how they make decisions," Dumaresq said.
This year has also seen lots of provocative debate on mining's future, and you can enjoy some interesting contributed opinion articles in this month's edition.
Lord Ashbourne, director, Energy & Resources, Edison Group, argues that mining lies at the heart of "the cleantech revolution".
"The mining industry has clearly been a contributor to the world's current environmental crisis. However, it is also integral to the transition to a cleaner world through the adoption of the cleantech it supports," writes Lord Ashbourne.
Equally worth reading is an op-ed on deep-sea mining that explores its potential pitfalls and promise.
"Deep sea mining is more than anything else, a venture into the unknown", writes Boris Ivanov, founder of Emiral Resources. "[But] the future of electric cars may depend on mining these critically important commodities on the ocean floor via deep-sea mining".
Argument over issues such as mining's critical role in the energy transition, and other pivotal ESG topics, will certainly rage on into 2022. But as the thoughts of the pandemic (hopefully) fade into history, we can be sure that investor and public scrutiny over mining's licence to operate will reach heights hitherto unknown - let's make sure we're on the right side of history.