Knowledge Center coming soon
Steven F. Fecht
Mining Sector Lead and Sustainable Development Consultant at Ramboll
I was born and raised in northern Nevada, one of the most prolific mining districts in the world. Growing up in that environment instilled in me the importance of responsible resource extraction and community development; so, working in and/around mining has always been natural fit. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work at mining projects both in Nevada (Rochester) and Alaska (Fort Knox), and it was amazing to me the true sense of “family” that the industry provides. Everyone’s working toward a common goal and with a sense of purpose—doing it responsibly and safely, which is of the utmost importance. Mining is family and that makes it special.
The mining industry has always had (and unfortunately continues to have) a perception issue, specifically a negative one. One of the goals I have in my career is to continue to educate those that are not in the industry to the fact that mining is indeed essential to support a sustainable society. With all the green/renewable aspirations that society has, we are a long way from being able to support a fully circular economy and mining will continue to be a critical element in driving society forward for the foreseeable future. I always like to say that “a sustainable society requires responsible resource extraction,” which—to me—is an extension of the old adage “if it isn’t grown, it has to be mined.” So, it’s the educational piece that makes me the most excited—albeit, at times, frustrated.
I’m excited to see the advancements being made in re-processing technologies, potential for bio-extraction of rare-earth and other minerals, continued development of in-situ extraction technologies, and beneficial re-use options for tailings or other mining waste.
Over the next decade, the pursuit of renewable energy and continued technological advancements will further push the industry into both traditional and non-traditional jurisdictions and environs. However, unlike historical times, this growth will occur under the microscope of ESG-related investing, climate-change/mitigation strategies, resource scarcity, and overall increased environmental awareness. Therefore, I see myself getting more and more engaged between nexus of responsible investing, integrating renewables into mining, and continuing to support environmentally and socially responsible production of minerals.
To be honest, most people outside of the industry find everything we do surprising! I can’t tell you how many people automatically envision mining as consisting of a few people with carbide lamps still going down into the mines with a canary by their side, or, alternatively, what they may see on certain cable TV channels, bulldozing and sluicing their way through the Klondike or diving in the Bering Sea or in some creek in the mountains of Alaska. So, when you start talking to them about undertaking a 10–20 year permitting process, spending a $Billion+ in upfront investment, and mining resources over a mile deep into the earth, measured in the millions (if not billions) of pounds... yeah, a bit of a surprise. The technical expertise required to extract these resources is phenomenal.
SME has provided me with the opportunity to engage with professionals from across the entire value-chain of mining. I can’t think of another society where you have a better overall representation of the industry. I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to expand my network, become engaged with the Environmental Division, and the Sustainable Development Committee. The members have a shared passion for the industry and having the opportunity to learn based on the experiences of others is tremendous benefit.