2016: E&MJ’s Sesquicentennial Year
The gold logo emblazoning this edition of E&MJ states it simply: Celebrating 150 years. Few trade journals can make this claim. Engineering & Mining Journal was originally founded as the American Journal of Mining in 1866 (See E&MJ 150 Years, p. 34). The publication established an early reputation for reliability and authority. In 1910, E&MJ was purchased by Hill Publishing, which eventually merged with another company to form McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. in 1917. E&MJ remained with McGraw-Hill until 1988 when it was sold to Maclean Hunter. The title changed hands a few more times during the 1990s. Mining Media International took control of E&MJ in 2003.
What people were able to accomplish before electricity, let alone the tablet, computer and the four-cycle engine, was amazing. Thumbing through the back issues of E&MJ is like a stroll through world history as so much of the planet was discovered, mapped and developed in pursuit of natural resources. Yet what is so surprising is that, for at least 150 years, the mining industry still repeats its mistakes time after time.
The cyclic nature of the mining business is pervasive throughout the E&MJ timeline. The 2016 Project Survey (See p. 20) documents the latest swing. Between 2005 and 2015, the mining business started up more than 1,230 greenfield operations during a period that will be forever known as the supercycle. Metal prices and demand are no longer at the levels that justified this great buildout and now the mines and mills will fine tune operations until the demand side of the cycle begins to grow again.
Those mining companies that managed through the most recent commodities drought of the 1990s were rewarded. They saw demand and prices for precious metals, base metals and bulk materials, such as coal, iron ore and oil sands, peak seemingly simultaneously for an extended period of time—something the mining business has never before experienced. The industry knew it wouldn’t last forever, but they decided to run with the bulls anyway. Now, some of the major mining companies are again facing serious choices, such as selling assets to service debt.
As a new year begins, people often resolve to change their ways. Maybe the resolution for the mining industry should be to strive for more balance in long-term planning rather than making hay every time the sun shines. Technology and the Information Age have tempered the peaks, valleys and durations of the commodity pricing swings. The opportunity to capitalize on individual metals and minerals will present itself again in the not-so-distant future. However, it’s unlikely that prices for all mined commodities will surge all at once for an extended duration.
A trade journal is a reflection of the industry it serves. The magazine grows thick during flush times and thin during lean times. The tone of the magazine is guardedly upbeat when prices climb and more reserved during uncertain times, but the mission always remains the same: to keep readers informed so they can do their jobs as safely, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
E&MJ will continue to serve the mining business much as it has. In addition to providing the expected useful information, E&MJ will celebrate 150 years using clips from past editions. Some of that research will be shared monthly and it will culminate with the September 2016 Collector’s Edition, which will be distributed at MINExpo 2016 in Las Vegas. Thank you for the trust you place with us. Please join us in the celebration and enjoy this latest edition of E&MJ.
Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief, E&MJ