SME President's Page

William Edgerton

Over the past year there has been a lot of discussion about whether the nation and/or individual states have been prepared for a pandemic. Public health is not our area of expertise, and I do not plan to go into that discussion here, but I would like to discuss being prepared for the task at hand.

In our industry, the topic of being prepared is one that we should continue to think about and emphasize. The dictionary defines prepared as ready to do or deal with something. When I am preparing for a task, there are several steps I like to think about: understand the objectives, brainstorm possible solutions (and alternatives), set a strategy and timeline and get any team members in place if help is needed.

As an industry, we do preparedness better than most. Starting with detailed feasibility, planning and engineering for all of our mine and construction sites, we identify and conform to environmental considerations as a normal part of doing business. We file for permits and incorporate contingency planning efforts into our proposed means, methods and procedures. In fact, environmental stewardship is one of the four focus areas in SME’s 2020 Strategic Plan, in which we expect that SME will be “recognized as the premier resource for information on responsible mining and underground construction practices.” And responsible mining and underground construction not only includes an emphasis on environmental stewardship, but also on ensuring the health and safety of all who work in and around our industry.

Another way that we maintain preparedness is by creating detailed risk analyses for all of our projects. The mining industry considers project variables and risk as a key component of the business of mining. And the underground construction industry uses risk assessment to such an extent that SME has published “Guidelines for Improved Risk Management on Tunnel and Underground Construction Projects in the United States of America” (O’Carroll and Goodfellow, 2015).

As an industry, and as individual firms working within the mining and underground construction industry, we do better when we plan for whatever the uncertainty that working in and under the ground can send our way. This includes doing better both economically for our own entities and responsibly for the global inhabitants. As a result, we are better prepared than most industries.

It is also worth pointing out that SME is paying forward the idea of preparedness through our educational initiatives. As an example, SME’s Minerals Education Coalition (MEC) has continued, throughout the pandemic, to provide training and mentoring for the Mining in Society merit badge for the Boy Scouts of America. “Be Prepared” is, after all, the Boy Scout motto. Earning the Mining in Society badge is a fabulous way to instill the preparedness that is the hallmark of our industry.

I look forward to having future conversations with many of you over the next year about preparedness, and the importance it has on our continued health as a Society. Drop me a line at SMEPresident2021@smenet.org.

William Edgerton