Colorado’s Mining Industry Is Embracing The Future
This week, the Colorado Mining Association will host the 120th National Western Mining Conference in downtown Denver. Our industry is emerging through a time of great transition, but the trajectory is bright. Instead of looking back and being reflective, this year we will discuss what is next.
In attendance will be some of the most influential leaders in our industry, ranging from Administration officials from the Interior Department, representatives from the State Natural Resources Dept. and mining companies of all sizes. Our cutting-edge panels will focus on topics like innovation and technology and how to attract the miners of the future and will also dissect some of the most consequential legal and policy issues facing us today.
Andrew Woodley, Regional Senior Vice President, North America, Newmont USA Limited, will kick us off by “setting the table” for Wednesday‘s panel discussions. To showcase our industry’s pioneering technology, we are proud to team up with the Colorado School of Mines where students will present at our exhibit hall their most groundbreaking ideas during our Innovation Challenge, with grant prizes on the line.
Ideas like theirs are allowing us to make our industry even safer and our operations more efficient. We use drones to survey land and explore mines; wireless network technology is helping us create new safety systems and increase productivity; 3D imaging will help us explore mines and achieve the most accurate geological surveying possible.
The mining industry has come a long way from our initial arrival in Colorado back in the mid-1800s. Since then, we’ve helped build our state’s economy to what it’s become today—all the while providing reliable, abundant and affordable energy. Now, the Gold mined in Colorado is one component that makes the iPhone possible.
The Coal, Gold, Molybdenum, Gypsum and Limestone produced here in Colorado are vital for a wide range of materials we use in everyday life—for everything from concrete to alloy steel and car parts to toothpaste and baking soda. That’s why we at CMA have a motto: if it’s not grown, it’s mined.
Since the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush in 1858, Denver has been a domestic and international hub for mining and the industry is entrenched in our state’s history. The mining sector now accounts for 57,000 jobs across Colorado and contributes $7 billion to our economy. And that economic impact is felt directly in our communities. Half of the $157 million in royalty payments paid by coal, mineral and oil and gas activity in 2012 went to Colorado schools while severance taxes support local government services.
It’s no secret that our industry has faced some difficult times. We’ve had to navigate through an onslaught of regulations as well as challenging market conditions leading to bankruptcies and consolidation. But we’ve endured through the rocky period and have emerged stronger than ever. Colorado and local communities all benefit from a strong mining industry that provides jobs, tax revenue and community investments.
After suffering a 30 percent drop in 2016 due to mine closures, coal production levels are on the rebound. Companies like Arch Coal and Peabody have emerged from bankruptcy reorganizations and their top-producing coal mines helped boost Colorado’s coal production last year to heights well beyond 2016 levels. For instance, Arch Coals’ West Elk Mine produced more than 4 million tons last year, and is experiencing strong demand internationally.
It’s important to remember that coal fired power plants still provide more than half of all Colorado’s electricity. A stable supply means a more reliable electrical grid less prone to outages and disruptions. This abundant and affordable energy means lower electric bills for Coloradans. And since the coal industry employs thousands across the state with high-paying jobs, the sector distributes further economic dividends to the state’s economy.
Since turning the corner, our board is focused on looking toward the future—whether it means attracting the next generation of highly qualified workers or embracing innovation and environmental stewardship.
The upcoming National Western Mining Conference will allow us to celebrate these achievements, and those of our colleagues. We will be sharing the successes of our member mines by awarding Environmental Stewardship awards for environmental excellence. We also partner with the Colorado Division of Mining and Safety in issuing awards for outstanding reclamation and safety performance. We hope to see you there.
Stan Dempsey is the President of the Colorado Mining Association.