DURING these very difficult times for the global mining industry, the word resilient has a number of appropriate definitions. As a noun resilience is a description for all those who are surviving the tribulations despite poor prices, higher costs, lack of capital, increasing ant-mining sentiment and declining demand while as an adjective resilient defines the capability of companies to keep afloat, or in shape, despite being bent, stretched or deformed. Other words that can be used to describe the qualities of the mining industry and companies battling to stay in front, whether they be exploring, developing, mining, supplying or investing, are determination, innovation and common-sense.
For the vast majority of companies whose work is showcased in the September/October edition of The ASIA Miner magazine some, if not all, of these words depict what they are doing now.
The feature region is Mongolia and although there are difficulties for all mining companies around the world, nowhere is this more evident than Mongolia. As well as being due to all of the factors mentioned previously, companies in the mining space in the landlocked north Asian nation are also combatting government intervention which has crippled investment and lack of infrastructure. As its economy is heavily dependent on mining, this downturn has come at the worst possible time for the people. Before the advent of mining, the country’s population led a largely subsistence existence but in more recent years the vast majority of people have been starting to appreciate the benefits mining brings – better living conditions, more wealth, improved facilities, etc.
The downturn has led to these benefits being eroded and the situation is not helped by government policies aimed at reaping more from mining rather than encouraging its continuing development. It is a gloomy picture but there are still mining companies weathering the storm and plying their trade because they have adopted the qualities brought about by resilience, determination, innovation and common-sense.
The ‘Road To Success’ feature article in the edition explains how Canadian-listed Kincora Copper is still managing to explore at a time when there is very little occurring in Mongolia. The company has been encouraged by some recent announcements coming from the government which may help to enhance conditions for explorers, developers and miners but is also concerned that some of the issues that have dogged the industry in the past two years are still not being effectively addressed.
A key to kick-starting the mining industry in Mongolia is the proposed underground development at Oyu Tolgoi which has been delayed by ongoing disputes between the government and the operating company. This has dragged on far too long and must be resolved by the end of the year otherwise there could well be no way back for mining in Mongolia.
The edition also demonstrates the resilience shown by other mining companies throughout the Asia Pacific region as well as the optimism among uranium companies for the future of the nuclear power industry post Fukushima.
Innovation comes into play when one considers the major role Australian mining technology has played in development of the global mining industry over the past few decades. Despite the downturn, Australian METS companies still have a very important role to play in helping mining survive. The edition includes a special feature dedicated to Australian technology and the ways in which it is helping mining companies raise productivity and lower production costs.
As CRCMining CEO Professor Paul Lever says, “Mining is at the beginning of a period of transition for which the drivers are larger than our industry and reflective of the growing global economy and increasing needs to bring the burgeoning population to an acceptable standard of living. In the last 10 years demand for minerals has steepened considerably over historical trends. In the future, companies will have to meet this increasing demand by more effectively mining lower-grade and more difficult deposits.” Australian technology can play a major role in opening new mines using more productive processes and methods and, where applicable, transitioning older mines.