March/April 2012

Editor's letter

Step out of your silo

By Peter Braul

Given the issue’s Latin American theme and in light of his recent excursion to Chile on behalf of CIM Magazine, I have invited section editor Peter Braul to author the March/April editor’s letter.

Angela Hamlyn, Editor-in-chief

When I began planning a three-week trip to Chile to visit mining operations, I got excited at the prospect of leaving my desk but also a bit anxious that I would not actually be able to accomplish a lot. After all, with multiple press deadlines looming, I knew I would be leaving the editorial department short-handed at a very critical time.

Instead of editing my section of the magazine, I was touring sites, interviewing professors, meeting engineers and talking to NGOs and community figures. I also spent a lot of time riding in trucks of all shapes and sizes, on roads in varying states of repair. The amount of practical knowledge I accumulated – of an industry and of a culture – more than made up for my time away.

Had I planned this trip by myself, it might have gone differently, but I was travelling with an independent journalist and a geographer. We had applied for a government grant together, and in our application we highlighted how much we had to gain from one another’s technical, linguistic and personal perspectives. We had no idea how important these would become.

The diversity of our backgrounds influenced everything, from the places we stayed – often with the family of my colleague – to the interviews we sought out and the questions we asked. Alone, I could not have waded my way through discussions about leach pads in Spanish, would not have found interest in what turned out to be a fascinating wind power project, and would have come away with a much narrower vision of the way mining interacts with society.

And just as I could not have guessed how much my social circumstances would affect my perspective, neither did I expect to notice much difference in corporate culture between companies that hosted me. From the vantage point of my desk in Montreal, mining companies tended to appear pretty much the same to me. But on the ground, there are major differences in the way companies are run – from the most obvious contrast between state-run Codelco and privately owned Teck – to the subtle divergence in corporate culture between companies like Kinross and Barrick.

I have come back to my post at CIM Magazine enriched, exhausted and invigorated. It is a true joy to be part of a community here that fosters the kind of knowledge I gained, and that can see value in differences. The heart of progress lies in our collective ability to embrace opportunities like these, and I look forward to applying this experience to my work and my personal development.

Finally, my thanks go out to everyone who made my trip possible. From CIM management (who had the vision to back their newest employee on a three-week, independent recon mission) to the editorial staff with whom I work on a daily basis; I could not ask for a better group of people. Thanks also to all the people I met with while abroad, and who made time in their busy schedules to enlighten me.

Peter Braul, Section editor

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