The Spokane-based Northwest Mining Association will hold its annual convention Dec. 2-7 at the Spokane Convention Center, which is expected to draw about 2,500 attendees from across the U.S. and internationally.
The association alternates the convention venue between Spokane and Reno-Sparks, Nev., where about 2,800 people attended last year.
Its 118th Annual Meeting, Exposition & Short Course will feature six days of speakers, short courses, technical sessions, and exhibits. The convention will draw mining executives, geologists, and industry experts to Spokane from about 40 states, Canada, and from such countries as New Zealand, Australia, and Mexico.
Laura Skaer, executive director of the Northwest Mining Association, says the convention expects to have 250 booths, about the same number as it had in Reno-Sparks.
"We have 200 companies on our waiting list for booths," she adds. "I think it's been good times in the mining industry with gold, silver, and copper prices up. Demand for metals is up."
The title of this year's convention is "Thoroughly Modern Mining in a Technology-Based World." With that focus, examples of session topics include one on high-tech systems and automation in mining and exploration, and another session on advances for safety and cost savings using 3-D imaging and geological mapping, remote control vehicles, and advanced communication systems.
Michael Silver, CEO of Los Angeles-based American Elements, is scheduled to talk at a welcome lunch on Wednesday, Dec. 5, after three days of industry short courses. An expert on rare earth critical metals, Silver will talk on "Why Mining is Now Essential to the American Environmental Movement." He also is knowledgeable about the supply chain from mine to finished goods, and the scientific applications that make rare elements important, the association's convention brochure says.
The exhibits and technical sessions also start on Wednesday, Skaer says.
The keynote speaker this year is Timothy Wood, executive director of the Denver Gold Group, which is a trade association promoting investment in precious metal equities. Wood will speak Thursday, Dec. 6, on the topic, "The Gold Bull Market: Where We've Been and Where We Are Going."
Skaer says a popular geology short course offered here that includes a tour of the Silver Valley is nearly sold out. It will be presented by Earl Bennett, retired University of Idaho professor of geology and dean emeritus of the school's former College of Mines and Earth Resources.
Additionally, the convention has scheduled a Friday morning, Dec. 7, session that will include a presentation by industry experts and U.S. Congressional staff members about federal legislative and regulatory issues facing the mining industry in the upcoming year.
Jeff Kohler, director of the mine safety research division for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), also is scheduled to speak Friday morning about the future of mining health and safety research. Kohler's topic will address NIOSH's Spokane research lab, which studies hard-rock mining safety.
Skaer says the lab based here is the only health and safety research center in the U.S. focused on studying hard-rock mine safety. A similar research lab in Pittsburgh is focused on health and safety research for coal mining, she adds.
"The Spokane research lab has very sophisticated testing equipment for hard-rock mining," Skaer says. "We're working with our Congressional members to keep it open and restore internal funding, so we make sure as much health and safety research is done for hard-rock mining as is done for coal mining."
She says Greater Spokane Incorporated and Innovate Washington are among groups that support expanding the role of the Spokane research lab to do health and safety research for other industries, including oil, Skaer says.
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