SPARKS, Nev. — The 112th annual convention of the Northwest Mining Association was so successful, leaders say there’s a good chance the organization will return to Nevada in 2008.
The second largest mining conference in the country, the NWMA’s annual meeting had never before been held anywhere other than it’s home town of Spokane, until last week’s meeting in Sparks, near Reno.
“We won’t know until we get back to Spokane and count it all up but we’re really, really close to topping 2,000 attendees,” the association’s executive director, Laura Skaer, said as the event wrapped up over the weekend.
If so, it would make it the most attended conference since 1999, she said.
“Next year’s conference is back in Spokane, but after that, my guess is we’ll probably be here,” Skaer said.
The idea of taking the meeting on the road was prompted by sagging attendance in recent years. The gathering had drawn as many as 3,000 people in the early 1990s but dropped to as low as 700 when gold prices bottomed out in 2000.
Attendance had slowly been recovering as prices rose, with about 1,200 present at last year’s meeting.
“But with all the layoffs, and then 9/11, companies got out of the habit of traveling,” Skaer said.
“The board started discussing it, and we decided we really should take this convention to the heart of the U.S. mining industry — and that’s Nevada,” she said about the third largest gold producer in the world behind South Africa and Australia.
“It worked out exceptionally well. We’ve reconnected the convention to people who used to come from Nevada,” she said.
A number of members and speakers at the five-day conference said the association should consider rotating between Spokane and northern Nevada.
“The attendance proves it out,” said Janine Clayton, the U.S. Forest Service’s acting director for minerals and geology management.
“I think it will increase the participation from California as well as Nevada,” Clayton said.
Jeffrey Kenner, director of business development for Aero-Metric, an aerial mapping company based in Seattle, said the 90-minute flight to Reno was “no big deal.”