SME President's Page

Bob Schafer

Paraphrasing Jerry Lee Lewis, there is “A whole lotta changing going on,” seems appropriate right now. His original lyrics came out at a time when a new style of music erupted in the 1950s and shook it up. Today we have many stimuli that are creating upheaval in social and physical infrastructure and society is adapting, sometimes radically.

We have a new virus that has caused us to alter the way we meet, socialize, entertain and educate ourselves. We also have a collision of natural and imposed factors that are causing us to reconsider the way we source and use energy, water and air. In addition, we have a technological revolution that is altering daily lives in terms of communication, information and the speed at which our daily lives happen.

Things are changing as well at SME, some of them resulting from these stimuli, others are the result of our own perceived need for innovation. When the dust settles, I believe that we will all find that updating SME is for the good.

The most noticeable SME change will be our website. After years of work, October 2020 will see the new public view of SME and what we offer. The new site can be personalized, so you will be able to access the information that is likely to be of most value to you when you log on. It will be very user-friendly, so you can also find other topics easily. Let us know how you like it and if other improvements are desirable.

By now, I will bet that everyone has been bombarded by virtual webinars, meetings and conferences. If it cannot be live, it must be virtual. SME is also going virtual in its board, division, committee and section meetings. We are also developing the means to hold conferences in virtual space, since all things live have been cancelled into 2021 at this point.

The next experiment will be the THRIVE Virtual Conference, Oct. 20-21. The headline theme is innovation in finance and is titled “Financing Exploration, Mine Feasibility, Construction and Closure -- Keys to Success and Navigating the Way Forward in a Pandemic World.” The slate of speakers is globally renowned. The cost is reasonable -- much less than traveling and attending in person. And yes, there will even be networking events. So please check it out, register and attend.

THRIVE will be the warm-up for the big virtual event: MINEXCHANGE 2021 SME Annual Conference & Expo to be held March 1-5. Everything that is the annual convention will be there: a multitude of technical programs, the exhibit hall, keynote speeches, awards presentations, committee and division meetings -- and all can be enjoyed virtually. We will even hold virtual networking events (happy hours).

Facing reality head-on, the global social and economic disruption will also cause SME to review, analyze and develop a new business model. The entire revenue and cost structures of our organization, our services and benefits to members and the way day-to-day business is carried out are impacted. Membership dues are a key source of revenue, so we hope that all of you will not only maintain your place at SME, but that you will encourage associates and colleagues to join the best mining organization on the globe. While the format of some member benefits may have changed, SME offers a wealth of leading-edge technical resources to help you excel in your job. For the price, membership in SME is a great value.

Our annual conference and technical meetings also bring in critical revenues and have significant costs to stage them professionally. The paradigm for holding a large conference will change. Whether it is all face-to-face, or perhaps a hybrid that includes a virtual component, the way we attend live events will change. We are confident that SME will continue to bring the best technical content to its members, the industry and interested stakeholders. And while the expectations will be different, the SME committees and staff will continue to do an immense amount of planning and work to make the whole package worthwhile and enjoyable.

The SME staff is working diligently and with urgency to create a business model that reflects these new realities. Working together, we can optimize the value created by the coming changes to further improve SME for its members and solidify its status as the premier mining and underground construction organization.