Nov 01, 2019

Startup Colorado recently sponsored the entrepreneur Lighting Talk at the San Juan Mining & Reclamation Conference and Innovation Expo, organized by Mountain Studies Institute. David McAlvany, the CEO of Vaulted, gave a fantastic presentation and sent us this recap of the event. 

By David McAlvany, CEO of Vaulted

At the San Juan Mining & Reclamation Conference and Innovation Expo in Silverton, Colorado this September, many companies and public entities offered new and innovative approaches to mining and reclamation. This includes those working to improve source control of water into mines, the passive and active treatment from mine drainage to better manage impacted river systems, innovations in waste water treatment technology, and new methods to leverage bioreactors for mine reclamation.

Entrepreneurs featured in the Lightning Talk. From L to R: Chuck Wages of GC Solutions Inc.; Luke Javernick of River Science; Marcie Demmy Bidwell of Mountain Studies Institute; Briana Greer of Solid Solution Geosciences; Taylor Grande of Startup Colorado; David McAlvany of Vaulted.

The conference had representation from the Environmental Protection Agency, mining companies including Newmont, Freeport McMoRan and Ouray Silver Mines, higher education entities including Fort Lewis College, Colorado School of Mines, and University of Colorado, and a multitude of environmental remediation companies who all came to the table to discuss the future of responsible mining and remediation. There is a concerted effort from everyone involved to make progress on all fronts of mining and find the intersection of economic development and social license.

The work that many are currently doing to improve the quality of mining is also essential to the continued robust health of the gold market. It’s not just enough anymore to provide gold for consumers to buy, but it should also have no adverse environmental or social impact when it was mined.  Doing so is critical to tapping into the ever-increasing segment of gold buyers.

It’s safe to say that gold and other precious metals have come back into the public interest in a big way over the last few years. Both traditional gold investors and an increasing number of people new to precious metals are looking to gold in these uncertain times. Geopolitical upheaval (such as the ongoing trade war with China) and a global trend of central banks moving towards negative interest rates, means that there is a renewed interest in gold as a safe haven or a hedge against falling equities markets.

Since the Great Recession, we have also seen central banks globally increase their gold stores, which in turn has also increased demand among individuals and driven up prices. Gold and other precious metals are as “hot” as they’ve been for many decades.

As the precious metal become more attractive, also comes a concurrent trend; that of so-called “socially responsible” investing. You have probably heard of ESG investing, wherein investors of publicly traded companies are concerned with the ethical, environmental and social impact of the companies they invest in. They want their investments to align with their values.

Well, the same trend is also happening in the precious metals market, whether people are buying gold as an investment or for savings. But the gold they are looking for is conflict-free.  Simply stated, conflict-free means a resource that is sourced and mined in an ethical manner. So, for example, gold that is not tied to an armed conflict, or that was mined by child laborers or by those working under unhealthy or poor working conditions. It also refers to environmental factors as well; buyers of conflict-free gold want to know the mining process was done in an environmentally sustainable way and did not permanently alter or damage the local ecology and landscape.

These social issues may not have been top of mind for the gold investor in years before, but it’s something gold providers need to keep in mind now. As capital flows back into the gold market, there are a number of boxes that need to be checked off so that the end buyer knows the gold they purchase is conflict-free.

David McAlvany, CEO of Vaulted

Luckily, the mining industry has invested in new technologies and processes with an eye towards environmental preservation. Mining companies, those on the reclamation side, contractors, environmental remediation companies and state and local agencies are working in concert to make mining safer and more sustainable for the environment

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