2012 will go down as the year when the wind fell out of the sails of economic recovery and serious storms rocked the boat of major miners, throwing a few CEOs overboard in the process.
Cynthia Carroll (Anglo American), Aaron Regent (Barrick Gold), Robert Friedland (Ivanhoe), Marcelo Awad (Antofagasta Minerals) and Diego Hernandez (Codelco) were only some of the executives who left their companies, either because they chose to or because of shareholders pressure.
Miners, big and small, reported lower than expected profit and decided to re-evaluate projects, resulting in scaling back expansions and shelving of major projects.
BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP), for instance, scuppered its original Olympic Dam expansion plans in August after determining the project to be uneconomic. And other giants, such as Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO), Xstrata (LON:XTA) and Vale (NYSE:VALE) cut jobs worldwide, especially at coal operations in Australia.
But after Google’s billionaire co-founders and filmmaker James Cameron launched their asteroid mining company, Planetary resources, space exploration became the most popular topic of the year, as our list of MINING.com’s top stories of 2012 shows:
In April, Planetary Resources not only took the wrapper off the new company that plans to mine asteroids, but also opened up a whole new can of worms. Articles pro-and giants mining celestial bodies abounded. This graphic explanation, stating that asteroid mining may be “humanity’s only hope,” was our number one by far, with almost 66,000 visits, around 400 Facebook recommendations and over 60 Tweets.
Quite the debate generated this story, with some readers saying workers should fulfill his obligations and others qualifying the company’s memo as “Scandalous and outrageous.”
It gathered close to 18,00 unique views, about 130 Facebook recommendations and over 15 Tweets.
Investor Frank Giustra, who made his billions in a rare combination of two very different industries (gold mining and movie making), made his mark. He told Canaccord's Global Resource Conference attendees he didn’t “want to sound apocalyptic," but went on about gold price present and future, calling bullion “the mother of all bubbles.” The result? Almost 15,000 visits, 100 Facebook recommendations and over 70 Tweets.
This post, about the "unconfirmed speculation" that China – at the moment the world's number one producer and second-placed consumer of gold – was gearing up to buy up to at least 5,000 to 6,000 tonnes, became an instant hit: over 14,00 unique visits, 130 Facebook recommendations and almost 80 Tweets.
Another top story coming from Australia. This time, the rumour of a 60-kilogram gold nugget and an alleged photo caught the attention of nearly 14,00 people, over 200 Facebook users, and dozen of Tweets and Google+ sharing.
On the last day of Roundup, Vancouver's mining showcase that happens every year in January, Sandy Chim CEO of Canada's Century Iron Mines, flashed a few slides about China, India and the iron ore market over the last decade that would make gold bugs green with envy. The story reached more than 12,000 readers.
Another iron ore bestseller. This story came in early December at a Rio Tinto's investor conference in Sydney, when Sam Walsh, respected chief of iron ore at the world's number two producer of the commodity, showed two slides that neatly sum up supply and demand in the iron ore market. Who knew that two slides could be such a hot commodity for almost 11,500 people!
With data gleaned from Bloomberg's new billionaire rankings and Forbes' long-running global rich list MINING.com produce its very own list of the 40 richest billionaires involved in minerals, metals and mining. An in-depth story that gathered the interest of more than 11,000 readers.
9.- Jobs-related stories
The news of Australian miners having reduced overhead by $2 billion and laid off nearly 10,000 miners between October and November, was followed closely by the one about Chinese miners being brought to Canada to fill jobs locals allegedly can't do safely. Both got about 11,00 readers and gathered hundreds of Facebook recommendations and Tweets.
Eric Sprott warned investors in June that silver supply would disappear in a nanosecond when they realize how scarce it really is. The article went far and wide, becoming one of our most read stories of 2012, with 10,500 plus readers.
Which one was your favourite?