Slower, lower, weaker...but not defeated

Rodalee Ofiaza, Mining Engineer - Technical Adviser to the Chairman, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines was awarded a MEfDA conference bursary to attend the International Mine Management Conference in Australia, August 2016. She shares her conference report below.

This year's AusIMM-hosted International Mine Management Conference was held on August 22 to 24, at the Sofitel Brisbane Central, Queensland in Australia. About a hundred delegates, with about a dozen participants from overseas, gathered to listen to the powerhouse keynote speakers and panelists composed of CEOs, Directors, Executives, and Managers of the leading global mining companies. The delegates also had the chance to discuss issues that were raised during the panel discussions.

The keynote speakers were Sandeep Biswas, Managing Director & CEO of Newcrest Mining Ltd., Nick Holland, CEO of Gold Fields Ltd., Franz Wentzel, Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Graham Ehm, EVP of AngloGold Ashanti, Alex Bates, General Manager of Newmont Asia Pacific, Andrew Cole, Managing Director & CEO of Oz Minerals, Jim Askew, Chairman of OceanaGold, Owen Hegarty, Chairman of Tigers Realm Group, Nick Bowen, Principal of Bowen Advisory, Jacqui Coombes, Principal of Coombes Capability, Vanessa Guthrie, Managing Director of Toro Energy Ltd, Mike Spreadborough, COO of Sandfire Resources, Matthew Gill, COO of White Rock Minerals, Nick Cernotta, Director Operations of Fortescue Metals Group, and Andrew Ransley, General Manager of Caterpillar.

Presentations were categorized under six groups, namely Safety and Environment, Business Improvement – Technology, People, Business Development – Operations and Equipment, the Big Picture, and the Bigger Picture.

Key takeaways

 

Slower, lower, weaker...but not defeated.

Staying relevant to the Olympic theme, this was the opening line of one of the presentations, which for me also captured the overall message of the entire conference. After the unforeseen growth and demand for mineral commodities, the industry is now experiencing a downturn, a crucial time when each company is tested and those with the best practices in mine management prevail. The mining executives shared their valuable experiences and wisdom in these trying times in the industry and discussed what should and should not be done to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. The value of refocusing the activities of the company in order to increase productivity, the importance of value chain analysis in making business decisions and in driving improvement in every stage of the operation.

One of the resounding messages that I picked up from the panel discussions is the concept of shared value. At a time when the industry is at its downturn, it is intuitive for companies to cutback on costs to maintain the basic operations. But for mining companies, this is not easily done, particularly in the aspect of maintaining the support for the host communities. But as discussed by one of the keynote speakers, one way of addressing this is by making sure that the communities are involved in every aspect of the operation. By utilizing human and other resources from the host communities, the company is sharing the value of improving the operations with the host communities in order to keep the business thriving and ensuring that the company is employing best practices.

As a young mining engineer in this industry, it has been an honor and a great experience to hear firsthand from the top executives all these invaluable insights. When they were asked to give words of advice to new graduates and young professionals, they all agreed that the best way to learn is to gain more experience on the field and to reach out to all stakeholders. 

 

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

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