Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Will the minerals industry continue to prosper and grow in 2012?

This time last year I reported that soaring metal prices had provided a fine start to the New Year, with the promise of increased confidence in the minerals industry.

It's is a slightly different story today, with the prices of all non-ferrous metals, apart from gold, which continues to increase, having fallen between 20 and 25% of their values 12 months ago. Although China and India continue to drive demand, the European debt crisis has had a big influence on global economic growth and there are no signs that this will change in the near future. The good news, of course, is that all metal prices are substantially higher than they were 3 years ago, copper and gold being double their January 2009 values.

So what will be the big issues influencing the minerals industry this year? Reduction in energy consumption, whether to cut carbon emissions or merely to reduce costs, will continue to be a dominant factor in mineral processing, particularly in comminution, the highest energy consumer. This will play a major role in discussions in April’s Comminution ’12, where the first paper in the technical sessions deals with developments in eco-efficient comminution, and the role of the newly formed Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution (CEEC), whose mission is to market and raise awareness of relevant research and alternative comminution strategies with the objective of achieving lower process costs and further energy efficiencies in the mining sector. But will all this be thwarted by Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, leading to increased sanctions from the West, and a possible closing of the Straits of Hormuz by Iran, which could ignite the world’s most combustible region, and send oil prices soaring?

It is going to be an interesting year and probably totally unpredictable at this stage, but it would be interesting to have views on what you think are the major factors which will influence stability in the minerals industry in the coming months.

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