Your future is still before you. Your land is a vast storehouse of mineral and agricultural wealth awaiting further development for the benefit of mankind. Its potentialities are magnificent. Charles E. Wilson
The mining industry is not generally vertically integrated like other industries such as oil and gas. Specialist organisations exist whose principle focus is the exploration of commercially viable deposits. Operations include planning, pre-feasibility study, resource estimation, site investigation, soil and ground water remediation, waste and risk management. These companies tend to function with relatively few physical fixed assets, so it is essential that they invest wisely in human capital, to acquire and retain the engineering, geological and commercial skills essential to their success and profitability.
Surface mining uses drill and blast techniques, along with capital-intensive heavy earthmoving and excavation equipment, to remove soil and rock covering deposits, and extract the minerals beneath. Strip and open-pit mining employ some of the largest machines used on earth. Bucket-wheel excavators can move as much as 12,000 cubic meters of earth per hour. Talented engineers with a specific set of technical skills are crucial to this global sector. Other forms of surface mining such as mountaintop removal mining, a relatively new method used principally to extract coal, and dredging, have their own unique skill-set requirements. Environmental impact is a major consideration which must be addressed by the surface mining sector.
The primary objective of any underground mining operation is to extract ore from underground as safely and cost-effectively as possible, producing the minimum amount of waste. Although significant advances in safety have been made in recent years, this remains a key issue in the construction and operation of shafts and tunnels in sub-surface mines. Sub-surface mining accounts for around 60% of the world’s coal mining. Longwall, continuous, blast, shortwall and retreat mining each require a unique set of technical skills and sector specific experience to deliver a safe and profitable operation.
Minerals include some of our most basic natural resources used in everyday building and construction, including aggregates such as sand, gravel and rock (e.g. limestone and clay). These materials are often bulky but low value, and their weight makes transport costs high. Local supplies of these basic materials are therefore essential to any region’s economy. Industrial minerals (such as barytes, kaolin, potash, salt, silica and talc) tend to have higher values and are used to supply a wide range of industries. Leaders in the exploration of mined materials include the US, Canada, Chile, Africa and Australia. In Australia alone, the mining and agricultural sectors comprise 57% of the country’s exports. Both surface and underground extraction of minerals have an environmental impact, and sustainability is a major challenge for all areas of the mining industry. It is essential to establish the right team to meet this challenge and deliver a successful and profitable operation.
Precious & Base Metals
The mining and metals industry is a fundamental part of people’s lives throughout the world. Ranging from the steel used to make our vehicles, through the components in our electronic equipment, to the aluminium for our drinks cans, we come into contact with the output of this industry many times a day. With commodity prices and mining revenues returning to record levels, the global mining industry has essentially returned to its former boom. China is expected to surpass North America as the leading global customer for this sector, followed by India, Russia and Brazil.
Mining draws significantly on the resources of many other industry sectors, including construction, manufacturing, utilities, transport and communication. This deeply embedded reliance on a range of economic sectors means that the mining and metals industry must overcome many challenges. Fluctuations in supply and demand and commodity prices mean that highly mobile individuals with exceptional commercial talent, as well as skilled engineers, are essential to this truly global industry.
Coal is highly valued for its energy production properties. It has been widely used to generate electricity for over a century. In spite of increased emphasis in recent years on new and renewable forms of power generation, coal is still used to produce almost 60% of electricity in the US and over 40% worldwide. The world has 800 billion tons of coal reserves spread across over 100 countries. Oil and natural gas reserves are not only much less but they are also concentrated in a small number of countries which are mostly in politically unstable regions. It is essential that we maintain the skills necessary to enable us to continue making best use of this extremely valuable resource.
In 2010, world demand for natural, unset gem-quality diamonds was around $50 billion. The US was the largest consumer at about $18 billion – approximately 35% of global production. In spite of being the largest consumer, the United States has no commercial diamond production and must rely on imports. Most of the world’s diamonds are mined in Africa, as they have been for over a century, but Russia and Canada have also grown rapidly as diamond producers in recent years. Both alluvial opencast and underground mining methods are used to source this precious commodity. Underground diamond mining is the more expensive method requiring more complex management and machinery. The world has an enduring demand for diamonds, for industrial and ornamental purposes, and a talented workforce must be created and sustained to continue meeting this demand.