November 2013

Editor's letter

In search of elegant solutions

By Ryan Bergen

A man walking the trade show floor at the recent Maintenance Engineering/Mine Operators (MEMO) Conference in Kamloops, B.C., stopped at one of the booths I was visiting and began to explain to the exhibitor the ventilation monitoring issue he was having at his operation, including the time-consuming, ad hoc solution his team had come up with. He was looking for a device that would resolve the problem. “Do you think you could make something like that,” he asked.

The technical program at this year’s event provided evidence that elegant and innovative solutions resulting from such informal exchanges are not uncommon. Technical challenges like these are neat in their proportions and the industry is adept at responding to them. A solution built on past experience and technical expertise can be offered.

And then there are questions where the terms of reference are still being developed, and there are relatively few successful case studies to draw from. These are the circumstances when taking on the challenging relationship between mining companies and artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM). It is an area that Correy Baldwin explores in “No safety in numbers” where, for example, AngloGold Ashanti, working on its Gramalote project, is trying to find a workable solution with the locals who have mined the area that hosts the greenfield project for generations – and where two sides with vastly different priorities and tolerance for risk must find some common ground. We ask how mining companies can best negotiate their inevitable relationships with ASMs, and whether they can bring some of their expertise to bear in developing better practices within this sector that represents the vast majority of the global mining workforce.

It is a contentious issue, and we are grateful to those in the industry who volunteered their perspectives. Even within the editorial department here, it stirred up controversy as we debated which cover image best represented the story, and whether the one we chose was too abrasive. Ultimately, we reached a grudging consensus, which is not ideal, but, as the voices in the cover story make clear, the issue is one for which we as an industry are less practised at providing elegant solutions.

Ryan Bergen


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