How Smart Mining Can Shape the Industry’s Image: A Conversation with the SME NorCal Chairman on CSR, Diversity, & Millenials

March 26, 2019

At the age of 23, Mauricio Solorio is the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration’s (SME) youngest section chairman, leading the Northern California SME Section. After he attended the 2019 SME Annual Conference and Expo in Denver last month, I had the opportunity to talk to him about his key takeaways from the event.

It would not be surprising if, by now, he knew all 6500 attendees by name... and vice versa; known for his eccentric hats and mustachioed smile, he is a memorable character. “I had the pleasure to shake hands and mingle with so many amazing people,” he exclaims. It was through these experiences that Mauricio reflected on common topics in the industry and how they fit with the theme of the event–Smart Mining: Resources for a Connected World.

Over the conference’s five days, he encountered three recurring topics that resonated with him:

1. The Public Image of Mining

2. Women in Mining

3. Millennials and the Generation Gap

“Living in California, my day-to-day interactions provide an important insight into how most people don’t understand the importance of mining in their daily lives.”

"When I say that I am a mining engineer, they assume that I am an IT professional asking if I am a data miner,” Mauricio laughs. "After explaining my role, people often bring up their anxieties about the negative environmental impacts of mining. Others ask me with surprise: 'Do people still mine?'" He also cited recent events such as Vale’s dam failure that further dampens public perception.

“We need to do a better job of appealing to talented women and millennials to drive the future of this beautiful industry.”

Solorio believes that this outdated public image also contributes to the lack of diversity in the sector. It would also be in the industry’s best interest to recruit more women, who the Colorado School of Mines Alumni magazine call “the mining industry’s most underdeveloped resource,” citing various reports that provide a business case for gender diversity. For example, companies who had female board members out-performed all-male boards by up to 26% in the stock market. Having two or more women on the board increased return on assets to about 6%, compared to a loss of about 3% for all-male boards.

He adds, “mining is not the same industry as it was 40-50 years ago. I am highly encouraged that the SME is taking a proactive stance by sponsoring competitions such as Move Mining to alter the public perception of the industry.”

“As mining companies, we should embrace the concept of Smart Mining to connect us to the future. By transforming into an industry that promotes innovation and corporate social responsibility, not only will our public perception change, but we will also be able to benefit from all the young talent out there.”

Internalizing the Lessons Learned from SME: What about Riivos?

In addition to being the chairman of the NorCal SME Section, Mauricio is also my colleague at Riivos. Our conversation helped me reflect on how our company addresses these important topics in mining.

Situated at the intersection of a high-tech SaaS company and a mining professional services provider, two industries that have traditionally been dominated by men, Riivos recognizes the importance of fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace.

Thus, I am excited to announce that Riivos will be sponsoring the 2019 Women in Mining Annual Meeting in Golden, Colorado, where our CEO, Michele McGovern, will be speaking on a panel at the event. Our sponsorship will allow three students from WIM student chapters to attend and learn from highly accomplished women in mining.

These scholarships reflect the company’s stance on investing in the future of mining. Not only do we actively recruit from top mining schools, but we also partner with universities to provide mining engineering students financial training and access to our cloud-based Value Chain Management platform for their senior design projects. In addition, we sponsor student teams attending competitions such as the Canadian Mining Games, which bring together some of the brightest minds in the industry to compete in various challenges and events.

We are proud not only to be investing in young professionals, but we are also fortunate to learn from their fresh perspectives and curious millennial world views. For example, my colleagues who attended the Mining Games in Edmonton came back to San Francisco asking themselves, “what does it mean to be a social miner?” According to Hajar El Houssaini, the winner of the speech competition, it was all about empathy.

As an industry, corporate social responsibility means being empathetic to issues that non-miners care about. Yet, we must also be empathetic to what drives change in mining companies.

I believe that Smart Mining marries these two concepts perfectly. New green technologies will allow us to process minerals effectively while reducing environmental impacts; autonomy will promote safety while driving up efficiencies; and the business case for diversity will allow us to capture a broader set of skills and innovative outlooks. I am excited that my company, Riivos, contributes to this industry’s digital transformation through continuous Value Chain Management, allowing you to see the impact of implementing Smart Mining initiatives such as these.

Though diversity, generational gaps, and a delicate public image are all concerns in the industry, Riivos believes that investing in the future of Smart Mining can address all these issues. And we are not alone. Many companies and associations are beginning to change the image of mining through investing in sustainable development and bringing leaders together to share their innovative ideas with conferences such as SME and Future of Mining.

The industry is addressing important issues by challenging the status quo, and I am hopeful for the future of what Mauricio calls "this beautiful industry."


By Louis Leung, Professional Services Consultant - Riivos, Mining

Learn more about Riivos Mining and how we're creating value across the industry here.