Mining industry returns in force for MINEXCHANGE SME 2023 Annual Conference & Expo

William Gleason

March 21, 2023

The Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) wrapped up a highly successful MINEXCHANGE 2023 SME Annual Conference & Expo in Denver, CO on Wednesday, March 1 with its annual awards dinner. Marc LeVier assumed the role of SME President for 2023 at the conclusion of the ceremony and will enter a year full of promise and opportunity for the mining and metallurgical processing industries.

Through the four-day conference more than 6,400 attendees took part in more than 110 technical sessions that included about 600 presentations. They visited a vibrant exhibit hall with 553 companies exhibiting in 803 booths. A return from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as high demand for the products the mining industry produces created an energetic conference.

Steven Schafrik, associate professor, University of Kentucky, served as the program chair and oversaw a robust technical program that covered the breadth of the mining industry.

“Overall, I think that the conference mood was, ‘back to business.’ What I saw on the exhibit floor, in the hallways, at the technical sessions and around the social events was people networking, exchanging information and getting work done,” said Schafrik. “The mining industry has had a difficult time during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the shutdowns, the industry was considered essential and told to remain open, and now issued mining permits are being revoked, and new projects stopped. Every major and minor project is hamstrung by workforce and supply-chain issues making planning and executing incredibly difficult, which is why having a large portion of the industry together to network and share ideas, solutions and commiserations was so popular this year.”

Attendees from around the world found their way to Denver for the 2023 conference where every aspect of the global mining business was discussed in sessions, hallways and on the exhibit floor where the latest innovations were on display.

Of note, for the first time, SME hosted a technical session that focused on total worker health with an emphasis on the importance of mental health in the workforce. The topic of total worker health was also discussed at the Health & Safety Division awards breakfast by Lori Guasta of the National Safety Council.

The Coal & Energy Division partnered with the Mining & Exploration Division for a panel discussion on legal and ethical considerations for engineers that considered realizing the difference between what engineers have the right to do and what is the right thing to do. This session highlighted the ethical and potential legal aspects of engineering with a keen focus on what professional engineers should consider in their daily responsibilities to help make them better engineers and witnesses in legal proceedings.

“I cannot downplay the fantastic job that Patrick did with the ethics panel. Everyone in that room thoroughly enjoyed the discussion,” said Schafrik. “In Coal & Energy’s programming, we had two sessions dedicated to operators’ experiences. These were chaired by operators (Sam Baker, Ben Mirabile, Jon Bobbera and Brandon Williamson), and most speakers were operators. I think more of this kind of programming is what the mid-career engineer is looking to hear more of. We need to have a mixture of the science and technology from academia and other sources, but also the operational experience to complete the value to the SME membership.”

The conference kicked off in Denver, CO with an overarching theme of “Investing in Success – Building Trust in Mining.”

As with many other industries, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues were top of mind for many aspects of the programming as well as on the exhibit floor. ESG has dictated investment decisions in all areas of the mining industry including insurance. The keynote address focused on this topic. The panel discussion was moderated by Kim Morrison, senior director, Global Tailings Management, Technical Services, Newmont and Kelly Ward, vice president, Mining, Metals & Minerals, Marsh (see page 25).

Following the keynote was the Murray Innovation Award lecture. The award was presented to Hecla Mining for its innovation at the Lucky Friday Mine. Phillips S. Baker Jr., chief executive officer and president, Hecla Mining Co. and Chris Neville, operations manager, Lucky Friday Mine spoke about the company’s implementation of the underhand closed bench (UCB) method at the Lucky Friday Mine, the deepest mine in the United States (see page 30).

The April issue of Mining Engineering will recap MINEXCHANGE 2023 SME Annual Conference & Expo


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