The mining industry has seen disappointing editorials in the news over the last several years, but there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. Layoffs, closures and bankruptcies have dominated news commentaries and it’s not only mines that have been the focus of these exposes’; heavy equipment manufacturers, mining manufacturers and even real estate (think coal country) have been deluged with negative op eds., with coal receiving the most abuse. I think we can all agree that is has been ugly for the mining industry and just as ugly for the hard-working people in the industry.
So, is mining going by the wayside? I don’t think so. What I do believe is that the face of mining as we have known it, may be evolving; just as plant and animal species have evolved over millennia in changing environments. Per a Reuters article; Junior miners, perhaps the most affected in our current climate, have been forced to diversify into other services to remain solvent, amid the slump. While the companies mentioned in the article are Canadian and Australian, we may see more diversification that includes U.S. based companies.
Larger organizations are looking at renewable energy as a path to expansion and growth. Africa’s Barrick Gold is one such company in the news who is exploring alternative energy. There has also been notable recent attention surrounding space mining. Predictions of planetary and space mining in the future are becoming a reality: One company has deployed its first space craft from the International Space Station, we are already gathering soil samples from Mars and per a Space.com article, asteroid mining is predicted to become a reality by 2025. China is looking to the moon for Helium 3, which is dumped on the moon’s surface by solar winds. This rare helium isotope could power clean fusion plants back on Earth. With the speed of our technological advances, one can only imagine the face of mining in the next ten years, with the potential for new minerals and metals being discovered. This does leave a lot of questions unanswered. How will new technology and innovation affect our terrestrial miners, equipment makers and the communities who have relied upon mining as we have known it, for so long? My answer? They evolve. This new era will open many new opportunities to manufacturers, mining companies, communities and to the people; new frontiers help shape industries, how they function, incorporate and evolve.
I do not believe that mining as we know it will disappear any time soon. Gold, Silver, Copper, Common Ores and Rare Earth Elements – to name a few – are such an integral part of our daily life styles and necessary, and will continue for generations to come. However, I do think mining is entering a new era, with change seeming inevitable; we should embrace the opportunities and the challenges that will come with this new direction. Change is challenging and not always welcomed, but with hard work and innovation, come so many rewards.