The frugal mine
What does it mean to be frugal, and how does this concept apply to mining?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to be frugal means to be sparing or economical with regards to the use of money and/or resources.
We all understand the need for frugality from time to time in our personal lives; because, for all of the plentiful periods, there will be times of uncertainty too. When we have to tighten our belts and make do. In those circumstances, we are glad for some savings, another source of income or the ability to live lean.
The same principles apply to mining, or any business in fact. While the industry may currently be basking in the glow of high metals prices and growing demand, those of us who have worked in this sector for a while know its cyclical nature.
Yes, we need to make hay (or metal) while the sun shines, but it’s also important that during periods of plenty, we look to allocate some time and capital towards optimisation and diversification projects too.
That might mean something simple like a plant audit to fine tune the operating parameters of equipment, gain better energy efficiency and extend the life of key components. Or it could be something major, like the characterisation of tailings to investigate the potential for a new stream of revenue within an existing business model.
Frugality, as a concept, has a lot to offer the mining industry (which, until recently, was a kingdom built upon excess, in every sense).
In the future, the frugal mine will not only be the most financially secure or savvy. It will also be the one that creates the least waste, the lowest emissions and places the lowest demand on natural resources. It will be the one that is able to keep valuable personnel while other companies are forced to lay off staff. It will have the means to involve local communities long term (see also, trust), rather than extending the hand of friendship then pulling it back years later when funds run low.
Think of it as an investment… frugality now equals stability later. It’s a way to build resilience and safeguard against the boom-bust nature of metals supply. It will enable mining companies to withstand disruption, whether that comes in the form of (god forbid) another pandemic, or Elon Musk riding in on a Tesla Model S… Whatever. It's important to be prepared.
That’s why, this month, all Intelligent Miner content will be themed around ‘how to do more with less’. Below are a few articles to get the cogs turning. Send me your own ideas too. I’d love to hear what your company’s up to.
Next month on The Intelligent Miner: Maintaining a social license to operate