Saturday, 5 December 2020
The USA Mining Market: Key Points from Austmine’s Live Webinar

The USA Mining Market: Key Points from Austmine’s Live Webinar

Last week, Austmine hosted our “USA Mining Market” webinar which featured an excellent discussion on the main factors that Australian METS companies must consider before entering the market. This delved into a range of topics such as local regulations and laws, methods of market entry and engaging local partners, current trends in the USA mining sector and the opportunities and scope for Australian METS to export to the USA.

Our expert panel for the webinar was:

  • Hal Bradwell, Account Director, North America, RungePincockMinarco
  • Mark Gream, Global Products Manager, Hedweld
  • Rich Peevers, Regional Manager North America, Whittle Consulting
  • Christine Gibbs Stewart, CEO, Austmine

Hal kicked off proceedings by looking at the current state of the USA market. He compared the recent fortunes of mining companies to that of a rollercoaster, with constant pricing and regulatory changes increasing uncertainty in the sector. However, investment in metals and industrial minerals has bounced back strongly, whilst coal has continued to struggle. Unlike the Australian economy where the resources sector is constantly in the spotlight and is an engine for economic growth, the USA is much less resource dependent and manufacturing tends to dominate the headlines.

He then briefly discussed the major challenges in the sector, identifying ageing infrastructure at many operations as a cause for low productivity and safety concerns. The USA is now import dependent on a range of raw materials and industrial inputs, which Hal believes is largely due to the time it takes to gain permits for operations. Compared to Australia and Canada where it typically takes around 3-4 years to move through permitting phases for mining developments, this can take up to 10 years in the USA. However, the new administration has begun to repeal laws that have impacted investment in the mining sector, including reducing the power of the EPA and undertaking considerable tax reform.

Hal was joined by Mark, Rich and Chris for the panel discussion. This began with: What pressing issues are being faced by mining companies in the USA that require urgent solutions? Is there scope for Australian technology & services to be the answer here?   

Rich clearly outlined five major challenges of critical importance in the USA mining market:

  • An ageing workforce in the mining industry, leaving very few young, skilled middle-managers to fill senior roles in the future.
  • A lack of exploration is an ongoing problem, with the complexities and time of permitting processes and the fall in investment contributing to a dismal project pipeline.
  • Safety still lags in some areas and Australian technology such as collision avoidance and driver fatigue sensors will receive a good hearing in the USA.
  • Sustainability continues to be an issue at the top of the agenda, with technologies that can achieve this goal and reduce costs much sought after.
  • More challenging orebodies in remote and deep locations that requires new technology such as autonomous machines.

Mark expanded on Rich’s statements by emphasising that technologies looking to break into the sector must offer efficiency and productivity gains, regardless of their role in the value chain. From his experience with Hedweld, he has found it difficult to change the perception of local miners in a patriotic and loyal market. It is important to manage expectations and play a long game.

Despite the similarities between Australia and the USA, are there any legal, regulatory or economic risks that Australian companies should be aware of prior to entering the USA?

Chris provided some excellent insights into the USA regulatory and legal environment, beginning by stressing that despite the USA being viewed as similar to Australia, this isn’t the case in many aspects of business legislation and you must do your due diligence. Taxation differs from state-to-state, whilst liability laws and insurance can make operating in the USA very expensive. Chris provided a couple of final pieces of advice: carefully screen partners, tap into local networks for advice and be careful with credit terms.

What do you believe is the best route to market in the USA? What support networks can be utilised in this process?

Rich pointed towards trade-shows as an important first step in accessing the USA market, including SME, MINExpo and PDAC in Canada. Increasing your brand presence through submitting technical papers in mining journals was another avenue discussed by Rich. Finally, he talked through the on-site product trials that some major miners carry out at their operations, where they invite METS companies to install their equipment as a demonstration of their capabilities. Chris also provided some handy tips in accessing the market, advocating for companies to locate themselves in existing clusters of Australian organisations that have already made the leap overseas. Each state also has their own mining association which immediately assists in establishing ties with like-minded organisations and provides access to miners.

In Australia, there is a major shift towards the implementation of advanced technologies in the mining sector, including the use of sensors, drones and automation. Is this the case in the USA? What other trends are currently impacting the USA mining sector?

Hal believes that Australian technology has already had a substantial effect on the USA mining sector, especially in the areas of automation, robotics and sensors. He perceives the sector as slowly moving towards next generation technologies, with a growing emphasis on systems integration and improving the skills of the existing workforce to be competent working with data. Mark backed up this notion, but highlighted that the mining companies he has worked with in the USA are slower adopters of technology than Australian miners.

If you would like to view the USA Mining Market webinar, please click here and contact Sheldon.varcoe@austmine.com.au to receive the password (members only). 

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