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SME eNews
Q: What’s your newest source for online mining news?

A: MiningEngineeringMagazine.com. Daily news updates, 24-hour metal prices, special web-only features, plus all the high-quality magazine content you’re used to getting from Mining Engineering—all as part of your regular membership. Log in with your member number and access the Mining Engineering web experience today!

SME thanks AngloGold and MMSA
Thank you to AngloGold and MMSA for their continued generous support of the SME Foundation and its programs. AngloGold once again showed its support for our educational programs with a contribution of $10,000 and MMSA has provided $40,000 for the new Minerals Education Coalition (MEC) program.

We appreciate and are very grateful to everyone who supports our programs, no matter the size of the contribution. Everything adds up and, as the saying goes, "you get to a million dollars one penny at a time."
Thank you everyone for your continued support of the SME Foundation and its programs!

M&MP and SME’s MPD announce winners of the MPD Student Poster Contest
Minerals & Metallurgical Processing, SME’s premier peer-reviewed journal, would like to congratulate the following Minerals and Metallurgical Processing Division students on their winning posters:

Undergraduate Division
1st: Raul Casillas, University of Chihuahua
2nd: David Horvath, University of Utah

Graduate Division
1st: Brett Spigarelli; Michigan Technological University
2nd: Caelen Anderson, Colorado School of Mines
3rd: Howard Hasselhuhn; Michigan Technological University

All participants will receive a 2012 online-only subscription to Minerals & Metallurgical Processing; winners will receive two copies of the May 2012 Student Poster Contest issue, in which the winners are announced.

Stay tuned for the May 2012 issue of M&MP, in which selected abstracts of the winning student posters will be presented, along with an introduction by editorial board member Jon Kellar. For more information about the 2013 MPD Student Poster contest, click here or contact Emily Wortman-Wunder at wunder@smenet.org or Tessa Baxter at Baxter@smenet.org.

Don’t forget! Time is running out to take advantage of M&MP’s new subscriber Annual Meeting sale: subscribe for the first time between now and March 31, 2012, and get M&MP for the fantastic low price of $50 for Online Only or $75 for Print & Online (sorry, U.S. addresses only).

Washington Updates

House passes bipartisan bill protecting coal mining
On February 29, the House Natural Resources Committee passed H.R. 3409, the "Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act" with a bipartisan vote of 26-18. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from approving any new rules or regulations that could adversely impact employment in coal mines, cause a reduction in federal, state or tribal revenue from coal mining, or diminish the ability of the American people to produce coal. Specifically, this legislation opposes the Administration’s reconsideration of the Stream Buffer Zone Rule for coal mining that took five years of environmental analysis and scientific consideration to complete. An Associated Press story revealed that the new regulation could cost up to 7,000 coal mining jobs and have a negative economic impact on 22 states. A more recent study by ENVIRON (PDF) shows similar or higher job losses as a result of the implementation of this proposed rule.

SME board member to testify at House USGS budget hearing

On March 22, SME Board member and Nevada state geologist Jon Price will testify on behalf of SME before the House Natural Resource’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The subcommittee is holding an oversight hearing titled, "Effects of the President’s FY 2013 Budget for the U.S. Geological Survey on Private Sector Job Creation, Hazard Protection, Mineral Resources Deficit Reduction." The proposed FY 2013 budget for the USGS is $34.5 million above the 2012 enacted level for a total 2013 budget request of $1.1 billion. The budget includes $97.1 million for energy, minerals and environmental health, a $914,000 increase over this year's budget. Nevertheless, it includes program reductions of $5.3 million in the Minerals Resource Program. The mission of the USGS National Minerals Information Center is to collect, analyze and disseminate information on the domestic and international supply of and demand for minerals and mineral materials essential to the U.S. economy and national security.

MSHA responds to congressional inquiry on technical support documents

U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) commended the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for addressing a flaw in its internal operations that withheld important safety information from mine operators. In a November 2011 letter (PDF) to Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joe Main, Chairman Kline raised concerns about MSHA’s numerous failures to transmit technical support documents to mine operators. The support documents contain recommendations that could improve mine safety. Mines that failed to receive technical reports include Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, WV and the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, ID.

In response (PDF) to Chairman Kline’s request for a review of agency policy, Assistant Secretary Main stated revised procedures now in place “will ensure that Technical Support investigation findings are timely transmitted to mine operators.”

"Safety reports should never fall through the cracks of a federal bureaucracy," said Chairman Kline. "Instead, they must be placed in the hands of mine operators who have a responsibility to address any concerns. I hope this represents a new chapter at MSHA in which important safety and health information is always relayed to our nation’s mine operators. The committee will keep a close eye on MSHA’s enforcement of this new internal policy."

SEC to phase in conflict minerals rule
On March 7, the SEC revealed that it will phase in compliance by public companies of new disclosure regulations whose products contain certain so-called African "conflict minerals." Companies will not be forced to immediately start complying with the new disclosure regulations set to be adopted this year, the top U.S. securities regulator revealed on Tuesday.

During a hearing on the SEC’s FY 2013 budget, the commission said they are working to finalize the rule in the next couple of months that will include a phase-in compliance period to give sufficient time for some of the supply chain due diligence mechanisms to be developed and put in place.

The conflict-minerals rule stems from a provision tucked into the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law at the last minute. The provision requires the SEC to establish new rules forcing companies to disclose whether they use tantalum, tin, gold or tungsten from the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As proposed, companies would need to identify if any conflict minerals are used in their products. If the minerals are present, they would then need to conduct a due diligence check to track them through the supply chain to their origins. An audited conflict minerals disclosure would also need to be filed as an exhibit to a company's annual report.

But the SEC has been bogged down with delays after it became clear the rule was much more complex to implement than it appeared on paper. The law also gives the SEC little wiggle room to be flexible, frustrating U.S. companies and regulators alike.

Northwest Mining Association files suit over Arizona mining lands withdrawal
On March 6, the Northwest Mining Association filed a lawsuit (PDF) in Arizona federal district court against the Obama Administration for blocking access to hundreds of millions of pounds of the high-grade uranium ore in Arizona. NWMA asserts (PDF) in its complaint that U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s January 2012 order withdrawing more than 1 million acres of federal land in northern Arizona from location and entry under the 1872 Mining Law violates the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. NWMA is represented in the suit by the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

Canada seeks 100K new miners in next decade
Canada’s mining sector is entering a period of "significant and sustained growth," according to a recent report (29.66MB PDF) from the Mining Association of Canada, which will translate into the need to hire more than 100,000 additional workers in the next decade.

The association estimates that Canada’s mining industry plans to invest a further $139-billion in new projects nationwide in the next 10 years. Demand for commodities in countries such as China and India are driving part of the overall appetite for investment in Canada’s mining industry. Among the top-paying and most highly sought-after workers are geologists and other highly skilled geosciences professionals, but the need for more talent is being felt at every level of the industry including mineral extraction, smelting, fabrication and manufacturing, among other areas. In addition to the mining firms there are 3,215 companies supply engineering, geotechnical, environmental, financial and other services to mining operations.

SME’s related report, "Emerging Workforce Trends in the U.S. Mining Industry," demonstrates an equal need for mine workers in the US and other mining boom countries, such as Canada. SME’s report found that a dramatic 52% outflow of senior mining labor in the U.S. by 2029 will put significant pressure on the industry to backfill those positions with qualified, skilled and trained miners.

MSHA internal review team releases report on agency's actions prior to UBB blast
On March 6, MSHA released the results of its internal review of the agency's actions prior to the April 5, 2010, explosion that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, WV. The internal review team, comprised of MSHA employees outside the district where the accident occurred, was charged with evaluating agency actions relative to the explosion and making recommendations to improve the agency's performance in order to better protect the nation's miners. The internal review team identified a number of shortcomings in MSHA’s inspection and mine plan approval processes. A number of factors led to these shortcomings that included lack of resources, inspector experience, management turnover, supervisory and managerial oversight.

International guide to quarry rehabilitation now available
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has issued guidelines (PDF) on quarry rehabilitation that provide practical guidance for managing the impacts of aggregate and cement quarrying activities around the world and ensuring that local environments are properly revitalized. The international guidelines reflect the principles of quarry rehabilitation and outline the conditions and milestones for developing rehabilitation plans. These include defining context and assessing baseline conditions; setting technically and financially sustainable objectives; planning finances; developing and implementing plans and monitoring, adjustments and post-closure land-use management. The Guidelines also feature 30 operational case studies, covering a wide range of quarry types and local habitats around the world.

Behre Dolbear rankings released
Global mining consultant Behre Dolbear has issued their 2012 ranking of countries for mining investment, Where Not To Invest (PDF). According to the report, the competition for mineral resources will make those countries perceived to have the lowest political risk, all other things being equal, able to attract a significant portion of the global mineral investment, as well as receive a premium for their resources over countries where perceived instability exists. Rankings are based on a set of criteria that include political systems, social issues, permitting delays, economic systems, corruption, currency stability and tax regimes. The top five countries for investment potential are Australia, Canada, Chile, Brazil and Mexico. The U.S. position remained unchanged from the 2011 ranking at number six. The bottom three countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bolivia and Russia.

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