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2015 SME Annual Meeting kicks off in Denver
February 16, 2015

The 2015 SME Annual Conference & Expo and CMA 117th National Western Mining Conference kicked off today at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, CO with more than 6,300 people already registered for the meeting.

The opening keynote session, "The mine of the future: Forecasting opportunities and challenges for the global mining industry" was moderated by Peter Bryant, senior fellow and honorary cofounder of the Kellogg Innovation Network  and included Red Conger, president Americas, Freeport-McMoRan; Gwenne Hennricks, vice president, product development and global technology, Caterpillar Inc.; Bryan Galli, group executive and chief marketing officer, Peabody Energy; Dean Gehring, president and CEO, Rio Tinto Minerals and Barry Hudson, director of aggregates northern Europe, HeiderbergCement.

Looking at the current state of the mining industry and ahead to the future, the panelist shared their visions of what the mine of the future will look like and what their respective companies, and the industry as a whole, needs to do to get to the future successfully.

Technology innovation will play a key role in the future as mining operators and equipment manufactures strive to create more efficient operations.

Big data will be a key driver to the future of mining as companies learn to manage and incorporate the massive amounts of data that are now available to them.

And community engagement and transparency will be needed for a successful future, according to the panelists.

"The mine of the future will not be found, but will be built," said Conger.

Gehring said that he believes there are three key components for the mine of the future: Engage your stakeholders, build trust and build context. Gehring said the mining industry is good at engaging stakeholders when it wants to win approval for a mine or after something bad has happened and he argued that the industry must engage the communities where it works on a constant level. This will help build trust. And the industry has to provide content so that the public gets the full story of mining, not just the headlines.

Galli, a representative of the coal industry spoke of the role coal will play in the battle against energy poverty, an issue he said is the number one humanitarian and environmental crisis. And he spoke of the need for the coal industry to continue into the future by replacing old power plants with cleaner plants and to continue to work to lower emissions and coal-to-gas and coal-to-liquid initiatives.

Hudson said the aggregate industry faces many of the same struggles of other commodities - lower profit margins, higher production costs and earning a social license to operate. He said data will be key in finding more efficient ways to move forward.

Caterpillar works across the mining industry, supplying equipment to all kinds of mining operations. Hennricks said it will take more than incremental changes, and that the mining industry needs transformational changes to create a successful mine of the future.

She said the keys will be increased production reliability and enhanced efficiency.  

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