Canadian Mining Journal


A calendar of carnage

Thankfully, and I say that on behalf of just about every mining company still in business, 2015 is over, and another dismal year has come to an end.

Mind you, the changing of one numeral from a 5 in 2015 to a 6 in 2016 on the calendar isn’t a magic eraser because, as most of you are probably reluctant to admit, 2016 doesn’t look that great either.

In fact, forecasters are predicting that bigger debts, and lower commodity prices, will continue to plague the industry for months, and perhaps for even as much as a year or two more.

It’s hard to swallow such speculation, but then again, when major players announce losses upwards of 35%, and some minerals lose more than 70% of their value, the carnage suffered within the mining industry becomes all too clear.

Naturally there are always positive and less-pessimistic forecasts, but they’re hard to find.

Even when some companies are still surviving thanks to hard work (and luck), they are reluctant to talk about it because they fear that any mention of “doing okay” could be misconstrued as being cocky and overconfident.

In any event, it’s probably wise for those not caught up in the freefall since the commodity crisis hit that they remain silent and carry on doing what they’re doing without bragging and being pompous about it.

In the tight world of mining, word travels faster than some mine elevators, and nobody likes to hear about other’s success when they’re own bottom line is getting redder by the day.

And investors, in particular, don’t like to hear that the company they once had faith in is reporting dismal quarterly results on a continuing basis.

But realism is hard to avoid as witnessed by the number of companies that have recently told their workers, and their families, that after a certain date and time, their services will no longer be needed.

For those of you who have never lost a job, it’s a devastating moment because in many cases involving a mine, and its miners, it’s the only show in town; the only place where their particular skill sets apply.

“But it’s all I know how to do” is a sad, but widespread comment that’s being heard throughout the mining community, and unfortunately, it’s going to be heard a lot more in the coming months as more and more mines (and their suppliers) must make the difficult decision to carry on (at a loss) or bite the bullet and shut down and let people go.

Like I said earlier to those of you who have never lost a job, it’s a gut-wrenching experience that you never forget, and it’s especially painful for those on the ‘white-collar’ level where it’s becoming increasingly apparent that managerial positions aren’t as vital to the operation as those at the ‘hands-on’ level where many feel the real work is done.

“Office miners,” as I call the ‘white-collar’ contingent, certainly play a major role in helping make mining companies perform thanks to their higher levels of education, and their abilities to deal with the business side of running an operation, but in the end, they aren’t the ones who face the face to produce the product.

It’s the “all I know” men and women who make the industry work, but unfortunately it’s out of their hands.

In fact, the situation has gotten out of just about everyone’s hands and unfortunately, turning the page on the calendar next month doesn’t look like it’s going to paint a much brighter picture in the months ahead for many in the mining industry.


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