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The Best in the West (BITW) Drill and Blast Conference concluded with resounding success, leaving attendees energized and inspired. Over 300 attendees, exhibitors, speakers, students, and sponsors came together for three days of valuable training and networking at the Spearfish Holiday Inn Convention Center in Spearfish, South Dakota, in April 2024.

The conference was planned and hosted jointly by the Black Hills Chapter ISEE and the Northern Plains Chapter ISEE. This was the 35th Annual Conference and will be remembered as another fun and successful event!    

Pre-conference events included the Paul Muehl Scholarship Trap Shoot and the Crazy Horse Mountain Tour. The Bob Martin Memorial Golf Scramble was cancelled this year.

The Paul Muehl Scholarship Trap Shoot was held at the nearby Spearfish Rifle and Trap Club, and included lunch and awards. The food was catered by PooterQ Original Barbeque in Belle Fourche and was very good! The top shooter was Neal Rothenbuhler, and Daniel Fithian won the “Most Chance to Advance” Award. Proceeds from the event benefitted the Paul Muehl Scholarship Fund. 

The Crazy Horse Mountain Tour group had a great time getting a close-up view of the mountain and touring the indoor exhibits. The weather was overcast and cold with a few snowflakes, but attendees still saw the progress of the carving and got some great photos.

The Regulatory Session and Panel Discussion kicked off the BITW Conference and provided some great information for attendees. Regulators in attendance included representatives from the ATF, Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety, MSHA South Dakota, MSHA Wyoming, North Dakota Public Service Commission, and Wyoming DEQ. Janeen Smith, ISEE President, did a great job moderating the session. 

There were excellent presentations given by industry representatives, drillers and blasters, students, scientists and engineers, which covered a broad range of relevant topics.

The Annual Awards Banquet and Scholarship Auction was an opportunity to recognize contributions to the industry, enjoy good food and conversation, and raise additional funds for student scholarships. This year, $16,000 in scholarships was given to ten mining students as a result of the conference and auction. An additional $1,000 scholarship was given in memory of Joe Wood (a long-time Black Hills Chapter member) to a student at SDSM&T.

The Supplier Appreciation Award, a custom blasting box from Blasters Tool & Supply, was won by Nelson Brothers. Their business card was drawn from a basket by Victoria Richardson of ISEE. The Newbie Award was given in great style to Hiranthie Stanford of ISEE. 

The 36th Annual Best in the West Drill and Blast Conference will be April 23, 24, and 25, 2025, at the Spearfish Holiday Inn & Convention Center in Spearfish, South Dakota. Save the date!