Adapting to bring you the best content and value in this year's virtual MINEXCHANGE 2021 SME Annual Conference & Expo

February 17, 2021

by Margo Ellis, Associate Editor

As the proverb goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention” — certainly true in mining — and now we can extend that to our largest of all annual events, this year’s MINEXCHANGE 2021 SME Annual Conference & Expo, March 1-5. Like many facets of our lives currently, the event is virtual, but attendees will get the same top-notch programming they’ve come to expect from SME, along with some added perks.

In conjunction with the Colorado Mining Association (CMA) to mark its 123rd National Western Mining Conference, SME has worked tirelessly to provide members with the best and brightest of technical sessions, keynote sessions, signature lectures, tradeshow exhibits, students activities and competitions, virtual coffee breaks, awards presentations, a silent auction and benefit raffle, and much more.

It’s all here and online with the added benefit of convenience of being able to watch any and all sessions from your home, office or jobsite. With input from the 2021 Program Chair John Uhrie and Program Committee member Emily Haas from the Health & Safety Division, read more about the great opportunities awaiting you at this innovative conference.

ME: How has this year been different in terms of planning a conference such as this?

Uhrie: The 2021 SME Annual Conference & Expo will be like no other, so it’s logical to say that putting the virtual show together has been like no other. The first challenge has been explaining the concept of a fully virtual program to the Divisions. I think it’s easy to say that our dedicated volunteers at the Division level are very familiar with putting together the high-quality programming that we’ve come to expect, but given our current virtual vision, it took a bit of talking through. The other, maybe hardest part, was to explain that, due to the virtual version, we had to limit programming quite dramatically this year – letting people know this decision was hard to do.

And the notion of the virtual MINEXCHANGE program is also a new one. The most significant challenge remains: getting the word out to the members that we’re still holding our meeting and there will be great opportunities for them. Ultimately, I remain very excited about the 2021 Annual Meeting. I believe it will serve its purpose to bring together mine professionals from around the world providing opportunities for professional development through expanding our technical skills base through technical sessions and keynote addresses as well as networking opportunities at the new virtual trade show and coffee breaks.

ME: As an insider who’s been involved in laying the groundwork, what do you most want people to know or understand?

Haas: As everyone knows, this year has been quite different. We were forced to make difficult decisions on the way we organized sessions and this led to a critical look at what topics to select or emphasize during the program. The Health & Safety Division was strategic and executed this task with rigor in a few ways: First, we were fortunate because two years ago we completed an in-depth needs assessment to help the H&S Division improve its resources and content offered to members. We were able to use this information to prioritize topics for our shortened content allotment. Second, we also made sure to include cutting-edge topics that were submitted that may have not been on our radar two years ago. And finally, we also had division volunteers rate and score abstracts to emphasize those that had data collected with results and recommendations to present so members could leave with information that they could immediately apply in the field to improve the health and safety of their workforce. These three aspects led us to develop the most impactful program possible.

ME: From the perspective of a member, what would be good for them to know in terms of what’s offered?

Haas: The virtual format this year has allowed greater participation from busy stakeholders that normally is not as easy to facilitate. To that end, our hidden gem of the program is a new panel on hot topics in frontline worker health and safety. This panel, while focused on the CMSP certification offered by SME, it is beneficial for everyone to attend. Within this panel we have six prestigious SME members who either have or are in the process of obtaining their CMSP. These individuals, all with different backgrounds and perspectives, openly share how COVID-19 has impacted their operations and some of the critical health and safety issues we need to be aware of and start focusing on to prevent and mitigate incidents. It is a must-see and sure to remain on our agenda for future conferences.

In a nutshell, here’s what members can expect and enjoy as part of MINEXCHANGE 2021:

  • Access to all 140 technical sessions
  • Five live keynote sessions
  • Earn PDH credits (content available 60 days post-conference)
  • 170 exhibitors as part of an interactive and dynamic tradeshow
  • Live virtual coffee breaks throughout the week
  • Student activities, including student design competitions, and Young Leaders mentoring session
  • Move Mining competition
  • 2021 SME Awards showcase
  • SME Foundation online silent auction and benefit raffle

And don’t forget, if you’re interested in joining an SME Division or committee, the complete meeting schedule can be found here. Simply contact the staff liaison listed and he or she will send the virtual meeting link. Volunteering is always welcome and encouraged and more information about the process and volunteering in general can be found here.

Visit the MINEXCHANGE 2021 SME Annual Conference & Expo website and register today! 

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