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Editorial comment

The 28th Coaltrans show, held in Prague last month, played out against the backdrop of recent dramatic changes in the international financial climate.


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The 28th Coaltrans show, held in Prague last month, played out against the backdrop of recent dramatic changes in the international financial climate. Many presentations that had been prepared in the run up to the event seemed slightly out-of-date, as cautious predictions of some future financial problems now appear somewhat understated. Some even observed that negative events seem to occur every time the event is held in Prague: the last time it was held there fell soon after the events of 11 September 2001. This seemed an unfortunate association for what is otherwise such a captivating and beautiful city.

Many agreed that it is still too early to precisely determine the extent to which the coal industry will be affected by recent economic events. Indeed, it is hard to say what the impact on the global economy as a whole will be. The overall feeling at the conference was that there are tough times ahead, but that they should not last for too long.

Despite the financial troubles, there were many positive noises to come out of the Conference. For example, Jan Panek of the European Commission considered that, after the full impact of the financial crisis is understood and the markets begin to restock and work towards rebuilding, it may well be that the advantages of coal are re-emphasised when the industry is re-assessed. The reality - that coal is abundant and relatively cheap - will continue to recommend it to industry and Governments in the coming years. David Peniket of ICE Futures further emphasised this positive attitude, conveying his enthusiasm for the coal futures that his company is currently working on.

As the mass media tempts us to think back to the Great Depression, the fallout of the most dramatic financial crash of recent times, as a representation of a 'worst case scenario', we should keep in mind the now famous adage from President Franklin D Roosevelt at that time of crisis: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It is imperative to remain positive, as far as is possible, during these uncertain times. Perhaps the coal industry has more reason to do so than most. Once the dust settles, we hope for an industry that has gained strength through adversity.