It has now been, as we finish off this latest issue, five months since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic. While we may not know how long we will need to endure this new way of living and working, we have learned a number of things in the meantime. (My favourite pandemic-related discovery: The incidence of preterm births since people went into lockdown has fallen steeply at hospitals in several countries, enough to prompt an international effort to understand why.) As for mining, we now know that despite the initial disruption to operations, mining’s status as an essential service, along with the recovery in prices of a number of minerals, has served the industry well. According to Ernst and Young’s report on mid-tier and junior miners released late in July, the collective fortunes of the companies on EY’s index have bounced back due in large part to the rising price of gold, a metal that the bulk of the companies on the index are pursuing or are already producing. 

The latest round of quarterly reports has also revealed the premium that must be paid to sustain operations while observing the required health and safety protocols, and adjusting to the unforeseen consequences of the pandemic. Only one among a group of four gold producers who reported their quarterly financials in late July managed to keep its all-in sustaining costs from growing as compared to the same period last year. Similarly, Teck Resources noted that among a number of new considerations required for the construction of its Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 project in Chile it would need up to US$40 million of additional funds to expand the work camp to meet current physical distancing requirements.

Relatively speaking, the adjustments we have made at the magazine have been minor. This will be our third issue created remotely, a transition to a new model that has been eye-openingly smooth. Our plans to load up this issue with material previewing the great trade carnival of MinExpo have inevitably changed. Many equipment and service suppliers take the opportunity to unveil their technology-enabled visions for the future at that event, but the show has been pushed to next fall, for now. In its absence we sought the views of some of the leaders of organizations responsible for enabling and accelerating innovations in Canada. In addition to providing updates on projects, they also reported that activity and interest among both technology suppliers and miners has ramped up (Innovation acceleration). Whether it is a consequence of business leaders spending less time travelling and more time thinking, the creative inspiration of rising costs, the inability to share ideas face-to-face or all of these and other forces combined, the industry has shown a greater openness to explore new approaches to mining’s challenges.

As we head into fall, I can say with a degree of confidence that the near future has still more surprises and lessons for us. Ideally, what we have learned over these last few months will have prepared us to be that much more agile in our responses.