MMSA Gold Medalists

David L. Kanagy

2015 MMSA Gold Medal Recipient

Introduction by Mark Jorgensen

Today we are here to honor one of the leaders in the mining industry, David Kanagy – Executive Director of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration.  

The first Gold Medal was awarded in 1914.  The Gold Medal is awarded to individuals who have significant contributions to the mining industry and is awarded “for conspicuous professional or public service for the advancement of the science of Mining & Metallurgy, or of Economic Geology; for the betterment of conditions under which these industries are carried on, for the protection of mine investors, and especially for the better protection of the health and safety of workman in the Mines and Metallurgical establishments.”

The criteria for achievement of this award is up to the discretion of the Gold Medal Award Committee.  There are no set rules or guidelines other than the previous statement.  There is no time of service.  There is no economic threshold to meet.  

The Gold Medal Committee bases its evaluation on the contribution of the nominee to the mining industry.  These contributions are noted in letters of recommendation, which were received from a former MMSA Gold Medal Winner, MMSA members and other leaders in the industry.

One of the recommendations submitted by a former MMSA Gold Medal recipient read, “David has provided outstanding leadership to SME, focusing on the strategic issues of mining while bringing highly effective management practices to the organization.  As the executive of SME, David has met the criteria for the MMSA Gold Medal.   SME’s conferences, publishing of technical treatises and webinars that support the science of mining have been vastly improved.  His efforts to develop international standards for reporting ore reserve and exploration information is important to the protection of investors and is recognized in the industry.”  

To me this was a stunning recommendation by a Gold Medal recipient.   I then made a real effort to find out about Dave and his accomplishments in the mining industry.

Upon completing his education he worked for the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association and then for the Aluminum Extruders Council.  After that he worked seven years for the Iron and Steel Society.  Dave described his transition from the I&SS to SME as “coming from darkness into the light.”  The steel industry was dying in the US and it was a brutal time.  But he had learned lessons there that would so very applicable to SME.

I first met Dave in October 2004, several months after he had made the transition to SME..  I was the Secretary for the Denver Section of the MMSA and was routinely charged with filling in speakers.  I know that it seems hard to believe but sometimes we had trouble finding speakers for our monthly meetings.  Dave offered to share his vision of the future of SME and what could be accomplished in the mining industry.  

When he presented at our luncheon meeting he did have a vision for the future.   He saw a different industry than I did.  He articulated how we could win the hearts and minds of the mining industry and how we could win the hearts and minds of the general public.  I was skeptical because if you will remember SME in 2004 it was a tired worn organization that was losing credibility, membership and money.  I was skeptical but his enthusiasm won me over. 

Over the next 10 years Dave was able to accomplish some remarkable things.  But as with any good leader he did not do these things by himself.  He worked with a team of people.  He took ideas that were brought to him by people in this room and shared a vision about how to achieve them.

Another letter of recommendation read, “His leadership, enthusiasm and drive have led to a number of significant initiatives.  A great example of this is the development of  David took the lead role in obtaining the web domain name and developed a vision for how to turn this into the most important web‐based information available to the mining industry globally.”

Today has over 112,000 documents available for research.  But it has a lot more documents that are available because of the formation of the Global Mineral Professionals Alliance (a collaboration between SME, CIM, AusIMM and SAIMM), which allows access to another mountain of technical data. 

The current estimate is that over 2 million pages available through OneMine.  In my professional life OneMine has been an invaluable tool.

Public outreach is another area where Dave’s leadership has had a significant impact. Under Dave’s guidance SME has established:

  • The Minerals Education Coalition which was created by merging MII and GEM to form a consolidated and stronger outreach program for K through 12 minerals education,
  • The SME Government and Public Affairs Committee which included hiring a Government and Public Affairs Director who travels to Washington D.C, on a regular basis to meet with Congressional staff and provide technical information about mining and minerals to policy makers,
  • The SME Congressional Fellowship.
  • The World Federation of Engineering (WFEO)‐SME Task Force on Sustainable Mining which is a global task force that focuses on capacity building in developing nations.

Dave’s leadership has built SME’s impact and credibility to the level where it is today.  

The old saying “A rising tide lifts all boats” holds true.  All of the professional mining organizations that I am familiar with have benefited by SME’s new vision of the future.  

Dave deserves to be recognized for his leadership and service to the mining profession and the MMSA Gold Medal Award is a very fitting way to honor him for his achievements.

The Gold Medal Committee has cited David for “outstanding leadership that has advanced the global collaboration of technical information, networking and professional development for mining professionals and enhanced public education about mining and minerals”.  

David Kanagy Acceptance Speech

I thank you for those kind words and an overly impressive introduction. Tonight I accept the MMSA Gold Medal with a sense of humbleness and gratitude to all those who I have worked with during the past eleven years.

First, a few thank you’s…

Thank you to Marc LeVier who I understand coordinated this honor. Marc can be rough around the edges, but he has one of the biggest hearts I know of in this industry. Thank you.

The MMSA Leadership for recognizing myself and more importantly SME. MMSA and SME are a strong partnership for the benefit of the industry and I look forward to working with MMSA for many more years.

The SME Leadership…would the SME Past President’s stand. Thank you for all that you have done each year to work with me to move the Society forward. Each of the SME Presidents has brought different skills, talents and ideas to the table and I’ve enjoyed working with everyone.

The SME Staff…(please stand) many who have seen all of the change and I thank them for working with me every day to help advance the value that SME can provide to our members and other stakeholders. Not every day is easy and not every day ended like we wanted it to, but this staff has perseverance, a willingness to serve our members and the industry and the ability to be flexible.

Thank you. Finally, my family. My two sons, Ben and Andrew. It has been a delight to have given you the opportunity to explore many places and things in life and I only pray that you’ll take all that’s been given to you and give it to others in the world. And, my wife Trish, she has put up with so much during my career. We have moved many times, all over the country, giving up a few jobs, taking care of children, and myriad of other things. Thank you…I love you very much.

Now, I’d like to take the remaining few minutes to highlight the importance of great industry

organizations. You see, in my 31 years of managing organizations, I believe that every organization with a righteous mission deserves to have its mission fulfilled. And industries like mining and metallurgy need strong industry organizations.

When I got to SME I remember the meeting I had with Art Schweizer and Barb Filas in Las Vegas, at MinExpo 2004. Barb noted that we would run out of money in 7 years or less and SME would run out of members in approximately 14 years. I calculated my age and the number of years to retirement and determined that none of those numbers worked for me. So, the only option is to improve SME’s performance, and improve SME’s value to members and the industry.

You see, there are many industry groups serving the industry . . . whether it is SME, AE&ME, MMSA, NMA, IMA‐NA, NSSGA, CMA or the other state organizations, WIM, WMC . . . they all have a purpose and the industry is better off with collaboration and cooperation among the groups. I’m committed to strong industry groups and I’ll work to help all. By the way, those are just the ones in the U.S. This list gets much longer when you step outside the U.S.

OneMine was an example of a product that was a great partnership between staff, volunteer leadership and great industry groups. I remember when we started the project, we thought about it being an SME library only, but with volunteer input, we quickly realized what a great tool this could be for the industry. I remember visiting Barney Guarnera’s office shortly into the idea with Jim Arnold. We had a 45-minute discussion with Barney about the idea and asked his thoughts. He turned to me and said, “Dave, I’ve had my differences with SME, but this is a brilliant idea, this would be an excellent tool for the industry”. We continue to work the library and today there are 8 organizations, over 110,000 documents and nearly 2 million pages to review.

The industry is changing… SME has reported on potential labor issues in the near future for the industry, technology continues to evolve and improve production so that we might go after lower grade ore body and process them more efficiently, commodity prices have been in decline in the past 18 months or so, and our universities have their own challenges.

SME has a strong connection to the University’s teaching mining and metallurgy. This past year, SME has made a tremendous commitment to these schools. Championed by John Marsden and lead by Hugh Miller and Courtney Young, SME has committed $8.5 million over the next seven years to a Ph.D. Fellowship and Career‐Development Grants. This program will tackle a small part of the problem with the replacement of mining and metallurgical faculty and help young professors to achieve tenure at their schools.

Without the success that SME has had in recent years, we couldn’t take on projects of this magnitude and even though industry is paying the majority of costs associated with it, it is the volunteers and staff working together that has put all of this together.

So, thank you for this award. I’m going to consider it the SME Team award and I again thank the volunteers, president’s and staff. I’m honored and humbled. My best to MMSA and to the success of the organization.