What makes you think that I know what 2015 looks like?
I’m often asked around this time of year: “How’s mining look for next year?”
It’s a predictable question that is usually answered with superlatives ranging from “dismal” to “bloody awful,” but thanks for asking.
Rarely do the words “outstanding” or “fantastic” come out of my mouth because like most of the people asking me the question, I don’t have a clue about next year and only give an answer based on what I usually hear or read from the so-called experts.
In fact, there are so many opinions out there that it’s hard to believe any of them because as we all know, things can happen almost overnight to change even the most optimistic and supposedly knowledgeable predictions.
Take this year’s failure at Imperial Metals Mount Polley mine for example.
A year ago I’m willing to bet that the owners of the mine were saying that 2014 was going to be a “great” year because of what it was doing and what it had planned for future development in the province.
Today, however, their world (and ours to a degree) has been turned upside down because of the disaster that occurred on Monday, August 4, 2014.
Predicting what the mining industry will do is dangerous territory because like I just said, there are too many uncertainties and for me to print that mining in Canada is in for an “outstanding” or “fanastic” year in this issue, by the time the next issue comes off the press a month later and the bottom has fallen out, then I’d look as misinformed as the ‘experts’ I referred to earlier.
Sure I’d love to have assurances that gold will top $2,000 an ounce and that Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” and Quebec’s “Plan Nord” will be churning out mega tonnes of ore before the end of the decade, but I have reservations that any of those things will happen to any great extent within the next five years.
I hope I’m wrong but history has shown that projects on the scale of the ones I just mentioned tend to get cross-checked from behind and put flat on their faces by unseen forces.
Governments change, investors lose faith, governments change again, and so on and so on.
Unless I see drills in the ground or rocks being blasted in all directions, I rarely listen too closely to ‘plans’ because all too often, that’s all they are.
I know that ‘plans’ are where most things start but sometimes I wish more projects were based on the “Shoot first, answer questions later” approach because at least something would be happening.
Rightly or wrongly is the risk we’d take, but at least things would get past the ‘planning’ stage and while I admit there would probably be more messes to clean up than shreds of rock, at least there would be something tangible in front of us.
Bruce Sprague, a partner and Canadian Mining and Metals Leader for Ernst Young, is a regular contributor to the magazine and later in this issue (on page 30) he talks about next year too but unlike me, he gets specific about 2015 by spelling out the top risks companies will face next year.
“Business risks facing mining and metals 2014-2015” is what Bruce basis his comments but the one word that comes up throughout his column that we have in common is “risk.”
It’s a word that has described mining since Day One and regardless of whether companies follow Bruce Sprague’s message in his column entitled: “Preparing for the New Year with robust risk management” or foolheartedly follow my “Shoot first, answer questions later” approach, the bottom line is that 2015 will be 12 good months for some and probably 12 bad months for most.