This being the final day of 2007, we recall the highlights of the year in mining. The stories that interested me most and which, I submit, will set the course of mining for many years to come, are these:
- Galore Creek, BC and the decision to put the project on hold as its costs soared, and raised the question about the viability of mining in British Columbia’s harsher environments.
- Kemess North BC and the Scoble Report that branded the project a bad social and environmental bargain, and reset the way we think about sustainable development.
- Bellavista, Costa Rica and the heap leach pad failure that shut a mine and probably killed mining forever in Costa Rica.
On the list of “big news stories” of 2007 were a few that did not quite come through to change the way we think and act in mining. There was the BHP offer for Rio Tinto. But fascinating as the story is, it has yet no substance and we will have to wait for 2008 to see it play out or, for that matter, have any affect on the mining scene beyond news.
There were a few mining scandles, as crooks cooked the books; but again those will have little long-term effect, in my opinion, on how mining gets done, or how people view mining.
Mining-related stories we read far too much about in 2007 include the perpetual shortage of skilled people in mining, increasing commodity prices, currency fluctuations, China expanding its global reach and ownership of mining companies, George Soros manipulating Romania to his advantage, and Australian politicians dancing on uranium. In practice, I suspect that only the Chinese actions constitute a significant 2007 event that will echo down the years to come.
Politically, global warming made strides as even the dinosaurs in the Bush camp came to yield a little to science and reality. For as John McCain says: If we are right about global warming, now is the time to act, and if we are wrong, it is still good to act to make a better place for our kids. And like General Electric, make money making equipment for a greener world. In practice nothing much happened on the global warming scene in 2007 that affects mining. Unless you count John McCain’s endorsement of nuclear power as a clean energy source.
There were continuing deaths and tragedies in mining in 2007 and we stop to empathize with those affected. Once again most were probably avoidable if only we had implemented the basic, well-know principles of health and safety. But with politics, big money, and vast egos rampant as always, we will have to wait another year to see if things change on the death-ratio part of mining. All I can urge is: do your small part, even if it is as pusillanimous as writing a blog about it. And with that, Happy and Safe New Year in 2008.