The global recession in the coal mining industry doesn't look as if it is going to improve anytime soon. It is a growing problem that belt and hose manufacturers have had to live with for three or more years.
Copper, iron ore and other mining haven't fared much better in the last year.
The culprits: Most at the NIBA—the Belting Association convention blamed, among other things, low commodity prices and excessive regulatory actions. Mine owners aren't going to sell products at below-profit prices, and they won't operate unprofitable mines and pay additional cash to meet new governmental standards.
It hasn't helped that the mining sector in China has tailed off, and it doesn't look as if a resurgence will occur there.
With a weak global economy and no growth from China on the horizon, “we assume the supply and demand of raw materials will remain unbalanced for awhile,” said Semperit A.G.'s Boris Illetschko, who heads the firm's Sempertrans unit.
But there's a small silver lining off in the distance. Aggregate and sand and gravel, along with parts of construction, are showing some life. In addition, old belts, hose and other products eventually wear out, and there are only so many repairs that can be done. Eventually, existing mines still operating will have to replace products—or shut down.
Several officials at NIBA's annual convention stressed that product manufacturers in the mining sector, especially the coal mining industry, must be patient. “Coal's time will come again,” one predicted.
Mining will bounce back eventually, predicted Tom Richardson, president of Conveyor Accessories Inc. He has been in the industry for decades and has experienced all of the peaks and valleys before. The question is when, he said.
Being versatile, like ContiTech A.G. and Semperit, helps when an industry is going through difficult times. Moving quickly and remaining efficient while producing good products, such as Conveyor Accessories, is another key to stability.
There's a possibility there could be an upsurge of sorts in the overall mining sector. Those that are ready when that happens will be successful.