Pennsylvania State University  

While at the Pennsylvania State University both as a student in the Geosciences department and in the Department of Mineral Economics as both student and instructor, Dr. Fletcher specialized in mineral industry finance. His teaching responsibilities included the teaching of the highest level undergraduate courses in the Mineral Economics curriculum involving finance and industrial decision making as well as a graduate course in mineral industry finance.

Financial Analysis

The course entitled Mineral Industry Finance was taught to senior undergraduate mineral economics and mining engineering students. A more advanced version was taught to graduate students. The course covered all the major financial issues usually covered in a beginning course in financial analysis in an MBA program including balance sheets, income statements, financial ratios, stock valuation, etc. The course project involved the development of a fully detailed international minerals development project that included prospect selection, exploration financing and implementation, mineral development financing and implementation, environmental issues, mining strategy, and an overall financial analysis of the project. In addition, all teams were required to make “corporate level” presentations that included developing presentation materials, supporting documentation, and appropriate attire for functioning at the highest levels in a minerals industry corporation. The motto was “If you can act like a vice president, you can be a vice president.” Feedback from students who then went out into industry upon graduation was that in fact the course had prepared them not only for the intellectual aspects of finance but also for the managerial communication aspects of their financial activities.

Managerial Decision Making

This course entitled Mineral Industry Decision Making, had involved the use of a generic business simulator by teams of students. Each week the students would make decisions on production levels, pricing, and expenditures on capacity and efficiency improvement. While such exercises can be useful at some level, Dr. Fletcher felt that the course needed more specific industrial “clothing.” To accomplish this, he designed a meaningful mining scenario, adjusted the simulator to relate better to this scenario, and then created mineral industry-related shocks to the system with which the students would have to deal. In addition, all teams would have to justify their strategies and examine several of the potential risks and rewards that could result from their chosen strategy.

Market Analysis

Dr. Fletcher performed research in the area of mineral price analysis by developing a simulation model that interacted with historic prices (copper and tungsten) and required an intimate understanding of price volatility, its long- and short-term periodicity, the amplitude of price swings, and any long-term secular trends, either upward or downward. The simulation model functioned as an agency that bought and sold metal on the London Metal Exchange and determined the conditions under which such market activity would be profitable. The result was a tool that could be used to evaluate similar strategies under current market conditions.

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