Wednesday, 1 April 2020

March 2020: the month which changed the world

At last March is over. February was a fairly normal month, and I attended major conventions in South Africa and USA.  Then came March!
It began quietly enough. On my return from Phoenix we were looking forward to our next trip to Cape Town, for Comminution '20 the following month, and then back to Cornwall to prepare for Biomining '20 and Sustainable Minerals '20 in Falmouth in June.
Then, within a few days, due to the escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak, we postponed Comminution '20 and the two Falmouth events. Only once in our long history have we had to pull the plug on events at such short notice, the last time in 2001, when Minerals Engineering '01 was scheduled to be held in Vancouver only a week after 9/11.
An eerily quiet Saturday afternoon in Falmouth......
.....and in Cape Town
And now Barbara and I, like millions of others around the world, find ourselves in forced isolation. Thankfully we are not totally confined to barracks, as we are allowed out to exercise, providing that we make no contact with other individuals, and we are lucky to have the splendid Cornish coastal path only a short walk from home.
The SW coastal path overlooking Falmouth
A policeman patrols an almost deserted Falmouth beach
Mining companies around the world have been temporarily closing operations, many schools and colleges are now closed for the foreseeable future, and Universities in UK have suspending face to face teaching. Many researchers are now working from home and there has been a noticeable increase in papers submitted to journals, such as Minerals Engineering, all requiring peer-review of course. At the best of times pressure of modern work has exacerbated the problems in finding suitable journal reviewers (Is the peer-review system creaking?). We have a core of dedicated reviewers but a number of researchers are unfortunately reluctant to review manuscripts, although they are often the first to complain if their work is not assessed on time.  Minerals Engineering's publisher Elsevier has recently announced:
"The COVID-19 pandemic impacts us all, and we are offering all possible support to our customers and employees. While at present there has been no major impact to our business or services, we ask for your understanding that this unprecedented situation might lead to some delays in the peer review process. For further support, please visit our Covid-19 community resilience resources center".
March 1st is a life-time away. Only two weeks ago I reluctantly cancelled the March Mining Sundowner, scheduled for Penzance on the 19th, and now all pubs and restaurants are closed "for the duration". A week later people across the country left their isolation to stand outside their homes in prolonged applause, a heartfelt gratitude to the country's doctors, nurses, care workers, GPs, pharmacists, volunteers and other National Health Service (NHS) staff.  These sentiments have been echoed around the world in praise of the marvellous men and women who have been working tirelessly and selflessly to help those affected by Covid-19.
On behalf of all of us at MEI, look after yourselves and prepare to face the challenges that April will impose on us all. No matter what happens from now on, March 2020 will be remembered as the month which changed our lives, maybe forever, and when everyone learned the meaning of 'exponential'.

"It's important for me to level with you - we know things will get worse before they get better." British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.


  1. So well put Bary, laced with positive thoughts.
    In India , though thickly populated with a large number in poverty, listened to our Prime Minister showing extraordinary discipline(with a few dark spots) in this period of crisis. I may use "STERN WARNING" from somewhere instead of "SHUTDOWN"--we may have grown" babies in test tubes" and great strides in sciences and technologies and what not but have to learn some new lessons and hope the world leaders come out with a "sustainable" world.
    Keep posting these Blogs which will divert our attention from the tragedy alone.

    1. Maybe Indian TV is censored, but from what we see on European TV the Indian authorities, particularly the police, have been showing an extraordinary lack of discipline in their brutal treatment of some of the poorer populace. Scenes of poor immigrants being sprayed with disinfectant were particularly disturbing
      Louis Dubois, Bruges, Belgium

  2. A brilliant CV-19 parody of a Les Miserable song:

  3. Hi Barry. Glad to hear that all at MEI are still well. Unfortunately, CV-19 has affected some in the UK mining community but the move to working from home will work in the end. I would normally look forward to your April 1st post but this is clearly not the time for such frivolities.
    I wonder whether an outcome of such a large number of businesses continuing to operate with staff working remotely will lead to a permanent shift towards this arrangement, especially in the consulting sector? Whenever I have proposed such a move as a means to avoid daily commutes into London the reaction has been totally negative but if productivity is not lost (it might even be gained....) then perhaps some companies might rethink.

    1. Hi Ian, good to hear from you. I have been working from home since I left CSM in 1996, and find it much more productive than an office environment. Until fairly recently Amanda and Jon shared my office, but now they also work from their respective homes, and it is easy to keep in touch via email and WhatsApp, and just trying out Zoom this week.

      I think more and more people will work from home in the future- so maybe we won't need HS2 after all!

      Stay in touch.

    2. Hope we get more of sch suggestions; may the Management Gurus come out with broad guidelines on which sectors need work at work places and those where physical presence is not required. The health and psychological impacts on these modes of work may also come out from different areas of specialisation.

  4. I always look forward to your April Fools' posts, and just a year ago, if I had read this I would have laughed. But its not a joke, and jokes aren't very funny these days anyway.

    Hoping everybody stays healthy!

    1. We still need to laugh when we can Pete, but you are right, an April Fool's joke would have been inappropriate in this posting. The Bodmin Institute, whose work I normally report on at this time of year, is, of course, now closed for the duration, but there was a very late newsflash, which I reported yesterday on Twitter


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