Miners link consistency, confidence

A much-watched survey of the world's mining executives again ranks Nevada near the top, both for the quality of its rock as well as the predictability of its political environment.

And the year-in, year-out consistency of the state's high ranking in the survey conducted by The Fraser Institute of Vancouver by itself is important, says one of the researchers who compiled responses from 322 companies worldwide.

The annual study released last week found that mining executives rank Nevada's political climate the best in the world for exploration and development of mineral resources.

Its mineral deposits, meanwhile, were ranked second most attractive in the world trailing only those of Chile.

Even more important, the state's political environment has been ranked best in the world since the start of this decade, and mining executives unfailingly rank the state's minerals among the top five.

"Consistency is key," said Fred McMahon, a Toronto-based researcher for The Fraser Institute. "Miners spend a lot of time putting money into the ground before they begin taking money out of the ground."

And once mining companies are distrustful of the political environment, McMahon said, years can elapse before the industry's perceptions change.

He points to British Columbia, where officials four years ago began rewriting regulations to encourage more mining development. But only in recent months, he said, has the industry begun to think of the Canadian province as a good place for exploration.

Not just the industry benefits from stable and consistent policies, McMahon said.

Environmental groups benefit as well, he said, because clear and consistent rules limit the importance of money and political influence when elected officials make decisions about mining proposals.

Describing Nevada's political climate, the vice president of one mining company with more that $50 million in annual revenue said, "The rules and regulations are straightforward and mining issues are well understood."

Added an executive of a smaller mining company who participated in the survey: "Nevada has a history of mining. Local government and government people know mining."

Russ Fields, president of the Nevada Mining Association, noted that mining is a high-risk business filled with uncertainties about geology, finances, and the trend of precious metals prices during the five years that typically elapse while a new mine is brought into production.

Reducing political risk, he said, gives the state a significant advantage when it competes against mining districts around the world for investors' capital.

"I'm proud that Nevada over the years has found this special balance," Fields said.

Although Nevada got generally high marks from mining executives, the plaudits either encourages investment or doesn't put up any roadblocks.

Environmental rules in the state were cited as a modest drawback by 27 percent of the executives surveyed.

Some little-noticed factors also encourage mining investment in the state. The quality of the geologic database in Nevada, for instance, was given the highest marks of any in the nation by the survey participants.


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