My second car was a VW Bus bought cheap in Karlsruhe, Germany. We toured all of Europe through three winter months in that vehicle. It took us up the Alps, along the Italian coast, through Spanish valleys, and across the Channel—well almost. We sold it in Stuttgart for more than we had paid for it, and I used the profit to put a deposit on my first house.

In Germany we visited castles and churches. Not one single mine did we see. I perceived how much I missed as I browsed through the November issue of the Engineering and Mining Journal (E&MJ) and their special report on German Mining Technology.

Of course Germany has always been a powerhouse of technology—witness my old VW bus and the two Beetles and the Fox I subsequently purchased. Their equipment is almost high art: so clean of line, so “form follow function” perfect, and I am pretty sure the quality is the highest.

The size of the German mining equipment industry is amazing. Two statistics:

  • “The German mining equipment industry comprises about 120 mainly medium-sized companies employing approximately 16,000 people and earning revenues of around E2 billion. Two thirds of these revenues come from exports.”
  • “About 50 mostly medium-sized German companies are leaders in the processing of minerals, particularly sand, gravel and industrial minerals and of course coal. The industry employs about 10,000 people and produces mineral processing equipment worth E700 million annually with exports accounting for 75% of sales.”

In the same copy of E&MJ is their 2007 Buyers Guide listing more than 1,000 companies that provide equipment and services to mines and mills worldwide.

Being an inveterate collector of arcane statistics I turned to the InfoMine Suppliers section. I found out that I could not find out how many suppliers are listed. I did establish that 277 German suppliers are listed. Don’t ask me how to account for the difference between E&MJ’s 120 companies and InfoMine’s 277 in Germany. I suppose it all depends on how you define a German company supplying the mining industry. Is it a company headquartered in Germany, making its product in Germany? Is it a USA company selling in Germany? Is it a company with an address in Germany, but selling internationally—flag of convenience?

I did establish that the InfoMine Suppliers database has 4,200 suppliers to the mining industry in the USA. That is a lot more than E&MJ. Why do they exclude the unlucky 3,000 plus? Or why does InfoMine include 3,000 more?

In Canada there is the 2006/2007 CAMESE Compendium of Canadian Mining Suppliers. There seem to be 250 of these listed in the volume that landed on my desk. InfoMine has 2,597. Now that is a big difference. Maybe we just list them all, whereas CAMESE lists members only. Kind of like Canadian radio: Canada content over musical interest.

After briefly discussing this with the manager of InfoMine’s Buyer’s Guide, Greg Fenrick, it became clear why there appears to be discrepancies. “The goals of InfoMine’s Buyer’s Guide is to be as comprehensive as possible, meaning that supplier listings are not only added by InfoMine staff, but also by suppliers themselves, using our online form” This means that if a supplier has a product or service to offer the mining industry, they can submit it for approval. Before a supplier listing is made live, it is reviewed to determine if they service the mining industry. This requires a visit to their website to confirm that the supplier has submitted the corporate office as the primary address. If necessary, corrections are made and additional offices are added. A total of ten offices are added focusing on the largest mining countries. It is this policy of listing other supplier offices that likely explains the discrepancies in the number of suppliers in each country between different directories.

For now these questions will just have to get in line behind all the other profound philosophical issues the crowd my brain. The only observation I can leave you with is this: Next time you need a supplier to your mine, take a look at more than one directory, compendium, buyers guide, or whatever you choose to call it. It is philosophically improbably any one is perfect.