Tomorrow the annual meeting, conference, and exhibit of the United States Society of Mining Engineers (SME) kicks off in full swing in Denver. Today we set up the booth, chatted to old friends, and attended a party given to the students who participated in the student competition.
The competition was won by a team from Virginia Tech. I did not talk to the winning team. Instead I chanced on another team from the same area and they told me they lost “bad.” They could not tell me why they lost and the winning team won. “Maybe we just got sick of sitting for three hours at a time in a room staring at each other,” one of the loosing team members suggested.
I chatted with some energetic student from Montana Tech. They too did not win. “Maybe we just didn’t know there was so much data out there,” one of the team suggested.
In spite of not winning, all the graduating students I talked to has a job. “Not the best,” said one young lady. “But as a mining engineer you have to be flexible this year, so I am going to Alabama to work in a quarry.” I wished here the very best for determination.
One student I talked to, told me that her boyfriend, also a mining engineering graduate, has been flow around the country five times for five different sets of interviews, and each one fell through as the interviewing company announced layoffs a few days after interviewing her boyfriend. “He’ll just have to keep looking,” she said.
This same sense of determination in the face of slowdown pervaded the exhibit hall. To me the hall seemed much quieter than at the comparable time last year. Not once did I line-up for a drink. The exhibitors sat with glum determination in their booths, defending a dream that has fled.
Maybe tomorrow some honorable keynote speaker will put a gloss on this. I do not expect another SuperCycle speech. I am not sure what I would say as keynote speaker. It is a platitude to talk of mining downside cycles. It is silly to say SME will live up to its mission by posting educational videos on a site parallel to OneMIne. It is disgusting to say “take over Canada and Mexico and mine them dry.” It lacks credibility to promise new sustainable mining initiatives. And there are too many Republicans here to plead for a bail-out. So we do have something to eagerly await tomorrow. I will blog about it at noon MST. See you then.