SME President's Page

Marc LeVier

There comes a time when profound change touches us all... as when our Society's executive director and chief executive officer, David Kanagy, announced his plan for retirement from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) at the MINEXCHANGE 2024 SME Annual Conference & Expo during the Meeting of the Members on Sunday, Feb. 25 in Phoenix, AZ.

During the past two decades, Dave has had a significant impact on SME and all our membership. Upon his arrival in 2004, our organization was facing "operational challenges," and senior leadership was rightfully worried about SME's long-term survival. As Dave recounted to me numerous times over the years, "There was a simple math problem. Would SME run out of members or money first?" The sum of this equation was going to be zero soon if appropriate action was not taken at that time due to 23 straight years of membership losses and 10 straight years of deficit spending which resulted in less than 10,000 members and about $4 million in mostly restricted reserves. This math projected that Dave would be done within six years, and he joked, "Who's going to hire an executive director that has bankrupt or run their previous organization out of business."

Fortunately for SME during Dave's tenure, he successfully and constructively led the Society through a variety of industry milestones, challenges and changes. In today's world we no longer have immediate "longevity issues" and compared to many other not-for-profit technical societies, we are in a very "healthy state of the union"; with our ship navigating the right course. This achievement allows us to bring together the mining and mineral industry's brightest and most dedicated professionals, as well as advance their careers by delivering world-class technical resources, educational programs, networking opportunities and professional development tools from SME. Our members are now focused on sharing best practices and novel technologies for all disciplines, moving mining forward, and continuously inspiring mining professionals worldwide. If past performance is a predictor of future behavior, then Dave's leadership has been a shinning golden example of "living with the consequences of decisions made in the past." This is both from actions taken decades ago which sowed the seeds of the Society's current success, along with decisions made just yesterday that will allow all of us and future leaders to thrive on the foundations we have built together, and see SME continue an upward trajectory benefiting our growing membership.

However, Father Time is undefeated. It is time for new leadership, and SME needs someone with different skills, different ideas and new thoughts for a new time. Our next leader must first and foremost ensure the future strength, prominence and vitality of SME and its role in our society at large. SME has a robust plan to begin this important transition and maintain SME as "the greatest professional Society on this planet." Our plan will enable us to both seek and hire a new executive director who will ultimately lead us into the future. So, during the next two years, the SME Board of Directors will form a search committee in the summer of 2024 with a goal of smoothly transitioning leadership by the beginning of 2026.

SME needs to find the person prepared to lead us forward from 2026 and beyond knowing the tremendous challenges SME faces today. The 2004 math has been solved. Yet the future rubric will involve more than just SME. There are opportunities that should not be missed as SME continues its mission and goal to build a better world.

We are on the cusp of a tremendous transition for humanity driven by science and technology that are all interconnected, and we will be profoundly impacted and transformed by artificial intelligence (AI). At SME, we need to think bigger and broader as our disciplines are going to be much more inter-connected with other areas beyond just the classical mining, metallurgy and exploration. Everything is connected from a technology perspective, and especially from a people and human resource perspectives.

We know mining - all commodities - is becoming more political. The next executive director will need to be engaged at a prominent level, develop good industry relationships, have thick skin and understand all the current issues for mining, and the numerous aspects and needs of the next generation of professionals. As the mining industry evolves over this decade, our next executive director must look to encourage diversity of thought among all SME members to help us adapt and deal with this technological revolution that will reshape the world. This will require professionals in the mining industry to have a broader range of talents and knowledge so we can still critically think for ourselves. All these aspects will be some of the biggest challenges we face in the coming years. I do not know what the true answer is or what the future will really look like, but I just know it will not be the same as the past, and that change will accelerate at a much faster pace. For SME, our next leader must guide SME through this inevitable transition.

I think I speak for everyone who Dave has so "profoundly touched" over the decades, by saying we appreciate the remarkable leadership and dedicated service he has provided all of us over the years! As always Dave... thank you for being a friend!