March/April 2013

Editor's letter

Energy potential

By Ryan Bergen

I was a little surprised to hear from a veteran journalist that this year’s PDAC Convention was “dull.” Maybe there was nothing shocking – convention lore includes a tale of gun play in the Royal York Hotel – but from my impression the energy was palpable.

A number of conversations I had underlined the urgency for junior companies to either distinguish themselves from their peers and secure funding or shutter their projects entirely. Fund manager Eric Sprott railed against what he argues is the underhanded approach of central banks to keep one step ahead of inflation and stifle precious metal prices. Regardless of the machinations of federal bankers, in the marketplace, gold miners are losing ground to investment products that 10 years ago were not even a factor. The market has changed and the imperative to innovate both with respect to operations and financing was clear.

While providing rich fuel for future magazine articles, for us the event fell right in the middle of the publishing cycle, inevitably forcing us to throttle back on pressing production work. Still, it did serve as a fitting backdrop for the creation of this issue, which explores the challenging combination of juggling resources and constraints. This proved to be the central theme for both the focus on energy and for our report on Brazil.

Natural gas and coal project developers are anxious to get their ample resources to markets that are hungry for their products. Meanwhile, uranium producers and developers are biding their time, waiting for a nuclear renaissance that – given projected future energy demand – seems only a matter of time. In the feature, “Supply lines”, Eavan Moore traces the progress these energy commodities are making on their route to world markets.

Inside our special report on Brazil, Antoine Dion-Ortega, with his story “On the tip of the iceberg”, mines the words of Ernest Hemingway to help define the nature of Brazil’s mining industry, which has vast potential and plenty of idiosyncrasies. We discover what Canadian companies have learned of both the opportunities and limits of working in that country.

Finally, while miners cannot control all of the forces acting upon them, they can have an impact on downtime and reliability. How did Suncor boost production by 70 per cent without an equal outflow of cash? By applying the principles of continuous improvement, explains recently retired Suncor exec Raymond Floyd in our Q&A, “Big on lean”.

Whatever the principles behind the improvement, the challenge is in the execution, which is what we focus on in our Upfront section on maintenance.

Soon enough we will be back in Toronto for CIM 2013 to tackle all of these topics and more. We look forward to seeing you there and re-energizing the conversation.

Ryan Bergen

Post a comment


PDF Version