Greg Boyce, chairman and CEO of Peabody Energy and chairman of the National Mining Association, which sponsors MINExpo, joined Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki; JoyGlobal President and CEO Mike Sutherlin, chairman of MINExpo 2012; and Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, in the opening ceremonies at the event.

“The growth in international attendance, from 16 countries in 2008 to 36 represented today, mirrors the global presence of the mining industry,” said Sutherlin. “With record expected attendance and exhibition space, by every measure, this show is historic.”

“This is the largest single assembly of mining equipment in history and the sheer scale of this showcase is a testament to the state-of-the-art technologies being used right across the industry,” said Boyce. “The world’s energy and industrial supply chain begins with mining, and the equipment and products on display at MINExpo show why mining is safer, more productive and more efficient than ever before.”

In a panel discussion following the opening ceremonies, mining executives from four of the world’s leading producers of mining equipment, coal and minerals agreed that underlying global demand, powered by accelerating urbanization and energy consumption in the developing world, will benefit an industry that starts the global supply chain. More minerals, metals and coal will be needed to supply China, India and the African continent, regions dominated by massive urbanization and a rapidly growing middle class, they said. The industry will be increasingly challenged by lower quality ore bodies, a shortage of mining engineers and an uncertain global financial system. But long-term fundamentals favor a bullish outlook.

Boyce documented the strong growth in global coal demand, powered by rapidly expanding Asian economies. “Energy is a basic human right, yet today 3.6 billion people in the world have either little or no access to electricity,” said Boyce. “Coal will be critically important for providing this vast region of the world with affordable electricity.”

Red Conger, president of Freeport-McMoRan Americas, a global leader in copper production, said the current market is in balance. “Even if copper grows only modestly—at 2% annually—supply will be challenged,” said Conger.

Richard O’Brien, CEO, Newmont Mining Corp., the No. 2 gold producer, observed the strong intervention of sovereign banks in the global gold market, with government purchases of gold up by 500% in the past decade. At the same time, supplying new gold to the market will be constrained by more difficult mining conditions. Today, gold is found not in large veins but “in grams per ton,” said O’Brien.

Sutherlin said developing countries in Asia are only mid-way in their growth curve as measured by metal intensity per capita. Viewed from the perspective of parity with the developed world, said Sutherlin, “China is today where Japan was in the 1950s.” Because mining operations are now moving into more challenging environments that make mining more costly, JoyGlobal’s emphasis is increasingly on manufacturing machines that increase mining productivity, efficiency and safety.

The CEOS put to rest a prevalent myth: that global competition for natural resources may come at the expense of the environment and safety. On the contrary, they said, mining operations anywhere in the world that are the safest and most environmentally sound are also the most productive mines with the most talented workforce. “If we don’t get the environment and safety right, we will lose our social license to operate,” said O’Brien.