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There is a lot to talk about in the mining industry. And more and more people are listening in on the conversations on the Mining Minds podcast.

The Mining Minds podcast, which got started in March, is recorded right here in Spring Creek. Every week you will hear several hosts who are involved with the mining industry talk about mining, usually with a guest.

“Miners always want to have a voice in the industry,” said Dino Brunson, one of the owners of Mining Minds LLC and a host of the podcast. “So we want to be that positive voice.”

Mining Minds has had a wide variety of guests, and they are inviting people from all areas of the industry to come on the show. The guests on the podcast so far have included dozer operator Hazen Mascaro, rapper iLL ZakieL, emergency response coordinator Tito Segovia, health and wellness coach Natashia Dallin, electrician John Allsup, operations director Curtis Caldwell, and project manager Brent Adams.

“We focus on their journey in the mining industry,” Brunson said. “How they started, what their progression looked like, the opportunities that were given to them, and then kind of what they do on the outside, to show the work-life balance.”

“We try staying away from mine-specific items,” Brunson said, “because we don’t want to dive necessarily into the companies, but we want to dive into what’s going on in the area, what’s affecting the miner, what’s the miner’s focus, what are some of the questions that are in the community, things like that.”

The popularity of podcasts is skyrocketing, but even for people who are not familiar with the whole podcasting concept, it’s easy to sign up to get Mining Minds delivered to your phone or other device. A new Mining Minds podcast is released every Wednesday morning.

The podcast’s invitation to new listeners is, “Welcome to the face. In mining that is where the action is, where the individuals doing the work are, and where the business begins. Mining Minds is a podcast based out of one of the world’s largest gold producing districts. From our experiences and experiences of those at the face (the dig face) we will walk through the life of miners, the communities and companies that support them, and the lifestyles they choose to live. We will discuss the importance of mining to the world and the importance of responsible mining to the environment and our future. Join us for some entertaining and educational podcasts.”

The start of the podcast

The owners of Mining Minds LLC and the hosts of the show include Brunson, his brother Derek Grover, and Grover’s brother-in-law Chris Rodriguez. Jason James is also involved with the podcast, but he is in the Reserves and has been out of town.

Brunson said that a while back he and the others were looking into starting a business. There were a lot of possibilities of different kinds of businesses they could work on. One idea they thought of was a podcast, and they did some research and felt that there was a need for the type of podcast they were thinking of – miners talking about life as a miner.

Once they decided to work on a podcast “it took us about eight months to really put the structure behind it,” Brunson said. They worked out the details of the format and the focus and the distribution of the podcast, and they also worked on their sound studio.

“We were working every weekend to perfect our sound and change up the studio to where we were happy with the sound quality,” Brunson said.

Brunson said the variety of experience that he and the others involved with Mining Minds have in the mining industry has given them a lot of knowledge about the industry and a lot of contacts.

“From the different seats that we sit in, we have an encompassing view of the vendor side of things,” Brunson said. “It’s really about knowing the people inside the industry, to where those contacts are giving you honest information.”

“Between the three of us, and the town being as small as it is, we know a lot of people inside the business.” Brunson said. “So we get a lot of snapshots from the real estate side, the health and fitness side … All the areas that we want to podcast about, we know somebody who is willing to come on the show and be your subject matter expert.”

Podcast topics

The Mining Minds team has several goals for the podcast. A primary focus, as their motto says, is to be “the voice inside the industry.”

“We want to let the people know that are coming on, that I can speak freely, I can have a beer with the guys and talk about certain subjects and my voice is going to get heard,” Brunson said.

Some of the topics the hosts often talk about with their guests are health and fitness and finances. Some of the guests have talked about times when they felt they went down the wrong road for a while by letting their fitness decline or by making some bad spending decisions. Guests have also talked about how they have maintained their fitness and looked after their finances while working as a miner.

“It’s about the miner and how we can help influence them to be able to retire at 55 with a nice bank account and healthy as well,” Brunson said.

Several of the guests have talked about the work they have done in mine rescue. This is a topic that the Mining Minds hosts are especially interested in because they all have backgrounds in mine rescue.

Through social media, podcast listeners can give feedback and suggest topics for future conversations.

Brunson said he recently has heard from some miners in Wyoming.

“I’ve been getting messaged on Facebook, saying, hey man, we love these stories, these are the same things that we’re going through up here.”

“The health and fitness, the rescue podcast, we’re getting some really good feedback on the topics that we’ve had,” Brunson said.

Some of the people giving feedback on the podcast have asked for more focus on women in mining. Out of the first 15 guests on the podcasts, only one was a woman, but Brunson said they will change that ratio. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 13 percent of the people in the mining industry are now women, but that percentage is gradually increasing, and women fill a lot of important roles in the industry.

Recording the podcast

The Mining Minds hosts all have jobs and one of them, Derek Grover, lives in Winnemucca, so currently they are doing the podcast by all getting together about one weekend a month. When they get together they have been recording a podcast Friday evening without a guest, and on Saturday they have several guests come to the studio throughout the day.

“The morning podcasts on Saturdays are usually like our MSHA inspectors, the guys that are going to be a little bit more serious,” Brunson said. “The miners that we have come on, we usually have them come in at 4 or 5 o’clock at night. That way, if they want to have a beer or two while they’re podcasting, they feel comfortable enough to come in and have a beer and relax.”

By recording several podcasts on a weekend, they have been staying about four podcasts ahead of schedule.

“Then we don’t have to rush the editing,” Brunson said. “Because when you have an hour and a half podcast, to edit all that audio, your advertisements, the music and things like that, it takes a couple nights to do.”

Brunson said that the weekends when they get together to record podcasts have been “super fun.”

The mill

For the podcasts without a guest, the podcast hosts have focused on one topic.

The first episode of the podcast, which was released on March 27, was called “The Mill,” and the 20th episode, which was released on Aug. 7, was called “Mill Two.” Brunson said they plan to continue to do occasional “Mill” podcasts.

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“The Mill” is a mining reference, but for the podcast, it refers to the rumor mill. On these episodes, the hosts discuss what people around the area have been talking about.

“In the mining industry, the rumor mill is a big thing,” Brunson said. “There are always little pieces of information that are out there, and some of it’s rumor, some of it’s true. Everybody tries filtering through to find out what the real truth is.”

The first two “Mill” episodes of the podcast were about the joint venture between Barrick and Newmont.

Brunson said for the first episode, they talked about “what our opinions were, and what were some of the opinions in the community on how it’s going to affect our area. And what it’s going to do to jobs, what it’s going to do to the mom and pop shops, what’s it going to do to the vendors in town. And we gave our opinion on the things that we’re hearing in the community, and different changes that we’ve seen in the other industries that we work in.”

The second “Mill” episode was recorded on July 19, two and a half weeks after the joint venture went into effect. Brunson said “there is a lot of worry in the community right now,” and they had heard some negative comments, but they encouraged their mining listeners to continue focusing on doing a good job and staying safe.

The importance of communication

Brunson said he feels that Mining Minds can be a vehicle to help increase communication between people in different part of the industry. He said it would be good for miners to hear more from people in management.

“I’ve grown up as a miner’s son,” Brunson said. “My family’s been in the mining industry since the mid-'80s, and I guess one of the things I believe in, and I feel that my partners view it the same way, is that these guys (the mining management) need to be able to be seen as people, too; not just these guys that are making these high-level decisions. So to have guys like that be able to come on the show, and be open about, ‘this is my start in the mining industry,’ and progress with them through the conversation on how they got to where they’re at, and why they have to make some of the decisions they have to make, and really show the listeners that they’re real people, too. They’re not coming in to turn the town down; they’ve got a social responsibility for this area, too.

“But I think when the miners don’t have communication, they start to get uneasy. And right now, with so much going on inside the industry in our region here, there’s very little communication at the face where the miners are actually mining, and there’s an uneasiness.”

Brunson would like the podcast to be a way for the mines to occasionally communicate with miners through some of the guests that come on the show, and also a way for management at the mines to learn more about the miners’ questions and concerns as the miners on the podcast share their stories.

The popularity of podcasts

There are a lot of options available today when it comes to what to spend your time listening to and reading, but podcasts are becoming an increasingly popular choice. According to musicoomph.com, conviceandconvert.com and other websites, in 2019 there are more than 700,000 active podcasts, up from about 550,000 last year. About 90 million Americans listen to podcasts at least monthly and around 62 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, up from about 73 million monthly listeners and 48 million weekly listeners one year ago – the biggest one-year jump in podcast listening so far.

In the past year, about 20 million people in the United States have learned what a podcast is, so that now 70 percent of Americans have heard of podcasts. Podcasts are most popular with younger people – about two-thirds of podcast listeners are between 18 and 44 years old.

With so many podcasts out there, they do cover just about every conceivable angle of every topic. According to an article on amplifimedia.com, last year there were around 65 podcasts about knitting and 76 about wrestling.

There are a variety of podcasts about mining, but many of them focus on the industry and investment.

There is a “Beers with a Miner” podcast run by a woman who drives haul trucks in Australia. Well, that one sounds interesting …

But Mining Minds is a unique podcast about the lives of miners, focusing primarily on this region of the U.S.

“We are one of the only mining podcasts out there, and we talk about the human element, not necessarily about the bottom line, or how much gold they’re going to produce -- all that’s public knowledge,” Brunson said. “It’s about the miner and what makes them tick.”

Although more and more people are listening to podcasts, Brunson said that a lot of people he talks to have never listened to a podcast and do not know how to subscribe to one.

“I’ve walked probably like 50 people through it,” Brunson said.

iPhones should have a podcast app installed that you can open to search for and subscribe to podcasts. With Android phones there are several ways to find podcasts. Stitcher is a popular Android podcast app. Podcasts can also be listened to on other devices, including tablets and computers.

There are several ways that podcasts can bring in revenue. Some ask for listeners to make contributions or subscribe. Some have ads throughout the podcast.

Brunson said they decided they do not want to have ads in the middle of the podcast because an ad would interrupt the flow of a conversation, and could be a point when a listener might decide to take a break. Instead, Mining Minds has ad space available at the beginning and end of a show.

The listeners

In early July Mining Minds had about 3,000 listeners. Brunson said that as the podcast has gotten started, the number of listeners has been increasing about 20 percent each month.

Mining Minds has listeners all over the country and the world.

“The cool thing too about the platform that we upload our podcast to, it’s actually got a map of the globe, and we can see exactly where our listeners are coming from,” Brunson said. “We’re into Australia, obviously we’re into Canada, we’re into Mexico, into Chile. When we did Curtis Caldwell’s podcast -- he’s with OceanaGold now in South Carolina -- and we said, we don’t have any listeners in South Carolina right now. So the week that he got back, we had five. It was like, OK, cool.

“We know Canada is a big area for mines, as well as Montana and Idaho. And surprisingly enough, the bulk of our podcast listeners are coming out of California. That was very interesting to us. The whole I-80 corridor, it’s getting picked up here, but California is the biggest section of that right now.

“And West Virginia -- we’re all over the East Coast now, we’re even into New York and Rhode Island, places that you never think that a mining podcast would do well, we’ve got at least 10 listeners in each of those areas.”

The future of Mining Minds

The listener statistics also help the Mining Minds crew to get a better idea of how long the podcasts should be, and to plan what topics they should focus on in future episodes.

“We get very detailed stats on how each podcast does, how many individual times that podcast is listened to, what is the average length of time that podcast is listened to,” Brunson said. “It also gives an opportunity to look at what topics people are listening to, and see what are the miners interested in.”

Brunson said the Mining Minds crew has a lot of ideas for the podcast.

They are working toward doing some of their podcasting via Skype, so that they talk with people in other parts of the world. They have some podcasts lined up with people in South Carolina and Canada.

“We sit down and we go over our business agenda every week,” Brunson said. “We’re very structured on the direction that we want to go, not just business-wise but podcast-wise, and the people that we want to have on.”

“There are so many stories out there.”

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Mining Quarterly - Mining, state and county reporter

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