Mining's future comes into focus this month as the industry looks forward to a new year that will hopefully be free of some of the constraints, bottlenecks and headaches that characterised the last.
Attendees at the SME Annual Conference & Expo reading this edition are likely the first to physically hold an edition for a while, and we aim to not let you down.
The glimpse into mining's future in these pages aims to cover a barrel load of interesting topics in our fascinating domain, with everything from blockchain and electrification, and preconcentration to mini nuclear reactors, all getting a mention.
In ‘Preconcentration comes into focus for miners', we read how miners are increasingly turning to increasingly complex sorting solutions to limit their environmental damage and cut costs. But are miners adopting the technologies without undertaking the necessary research?
"Mining is so siloed, in that processing is far from geology and sensors are almost on a rocket ship," Lucinda Wood, Business Development Director in Mining and Energy at the Saskatchewan Research Council, tells our Americas editor.
Rocket science and blockchain are often cited as technologies that are difficult to fathom for the layman. But we attempt to lay out blockchain's benefits, and potential pitfalls, in a special section of the edition.
In "Missing links in Mining's blockchain plans", we hear how a growing need for traceability has pushed other industries to launch blockchain-based logistics platforms - and mining could be next.
Blockchain is coming into focus as stakeholders in the mining industry are looking for new technologies to provide "irrefutable, real-time data in their supply chains," Douglas Johnson-Poensgen, chief executive officer and co-founder of blockchain technology provider Circulor, tells our deputy editor.
But the technology's limitations are also discussed in our pages.
Mickaël Daudin, deputy director of Pact's mining programme, says that while blockchain can help to trace minerals from a mine to the consumer, this is just one small - and limited - aspect of responsible sourcing.
"While traceability may tell us where minerals come from, it does not guarantee that they were mined responsibly. Did the miner have to pay a corrupt state agent or soldier at the site to get his ore out? Were children involved in mining minerals? Were minerals mined under safe conditions?" asks Daudin.
That article addresses important issues surrounding traceability, as well as community outreach and environmental standards, and these were also given a higher priority in this year's MM Awards. Our new categories related to this saw intense competition.
Let me take this opportunity to thanks all those companies that got involved in any way, and to offer a massive congratulations to the winners - all of the categories were very closely fought, and all entrants were winners in my eyes.