"In Nevada, we are well known for our geochemistry and our mine closure practice which started in the 1990s."
Can you provide an overview of SRK’s service offering in Nevada?
SRK started operating in Nevada in 1988 and since then, we have worked in most of the state’s mining projects, often multiple times. In the beginning, we carried out primarily initial resource geology, environmental and permitting work, but we progressively incorporated several engineering and scientific disciplines. Today, apart from environmental work and permitting, we perform ecological risk assessment, mine waste design, heap leach design, and tailings design. In Nevada, we are well-known for our geochemistry and our mine closure practice which started in the 1990s.
How did Covid-19 impact SRK and Nevada’s mining industry?
The largest issue for the industry has been related to the supply chain and workers. In the US, significant programs were set up to help workers who had been laid off due to Covid. Despite being one of the highest paying industries in Nevada, mines and other service industries are currently struggling to find employees. In addition, receiving the necessary materials became challenging, and, even when the materials could be ordered and available, the scarcity of human resources made it difficult to offload ships at the ports.
Can you elaborate on your highly demanded geochemistry services?
In the 1990s, the science of geochemistry started to be effectively applied to mine waste, mining development and mine closure. We were fortunate to have the right people at the right place and time, so we established a team in Nevada to perform this work, which grew over the years. Geochemistry, combined with other disciplines, is applied in mine waste characterization to support permitting and engineering design work. We also carry out pit lake work, and we have been involved in the closure of more heap leach pads than anybody in the state.
How do you see the state of exploration in Nevada?
The state has witnessed a significant increase in exploration activity. Gold prices have increased approximately 45% in the last three years, and exploration companies are trying to capitalize on this opportunity. The challenge is that numerous junior companies must compete for funding. Ultimately, they address this issue by drilling holes and finding gold. This has been complicated during the pandemic since there were fewer drill rigs operating due to the shortage of labor.
What potential do you see for Nevada’s mining industry?
Gold is a primary commodity in Nevada, and it is still desired as a hedge against inflation. However, I see the future of the mining industry in the green energy minerals. The International Energy Agency’s Net Zero by 2050 report recently estimated a sevenfold increase by 2030 for critical minerals such as copper, cobalt, manganese and rare earth elements. In addition, President Biden wants half of all vehicles sold in America to be fully electric by 2030. S&P expects automakers to invest approximately US$500 billion by 2030 in green energy minerals and estimates a global revenue of US$1.9 trillion in the next five years. These levels of financial investment will encourage finding more mineral resources.
One of the biggest challenges is that many of these minerals are currently being mined in countries that don't have as strict environmental or human rights protections as western countries. The mining industry is at the front-end of the green supply chain, so if we want to meet this huge demand, it will be necessary to move production into countries like the US or Canada, where the political opposition is high.
What is SRK’s strategy to consolidate growth?
Responsible development is part of our core values. Through innovation and technical excellence throughout our global organization, many of our people have become world-class experts in their fields. The extraordinary breadth and depth of experience in our global pool of 1,500 employees enables us to add significant value to our clients’ projects by fulfilling their unique requirements. This ability will be critical to our future, long-term success in Nevada and around the world.
Our mission has always been to provide the best possible services to assist our clients. Responsible resource development is part of our core, and we have gathered a great team in Nevada that can provide the necessary information, engineering and science to do that. Through our association with the University of Nevada, Reno, we are making great efforts to attract skilled graduates into the mining industry and into SRK, since there is currently a large gap in the market.