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Upholding professional standards: AusIMM annual compliance report 2020

AusIMM Professional Conduct and Ethics Committees
ยท 1200 words, 5 min read

The AusIMM promotes the highest professional and ethical standards of its members through a strong focus on professional ethics and best practice implementation of professional codes.

Under the AusIMM By-Laws, all members are bound by the AusIMM Code of Ethics, as well as other Board-approved codes, regulations and directives (including the JORC and VALMIN Codes) when acting in certain capacities as a resources industry professional. These codes and regulations serve to protect communities, other members and the profession while providing professional reporting and valuation systems that provide the community and financial markets with confidence in the industry.

Upon admission, AusIMM members commit to the principles set out in the Code of Ethics and reaffirm that commitment when renewing their membership each calendar year. In this way the AusIMM positions itself as a trusted and representative voice for resources professionals.

At its meeting on 26 March 2020, the AusIMM Board approved revised Professional Conduct Regulations. These regulations took effect retrospectively from 1 January 2020 with application across the full membership and can be referenced on the AusIMM website. The regulations are reviewed annually for effectiveness.

The complaints process

The AusIMM complaints process is integral to upholding the professional standards of members. The complaints process involves judgement by peers and is designed to ensure that members are held accountable for any conduct that breaches the Code of Ethics and the By-Laws. The Code of Ethics requires members to adhere to the requirements of the JORC and VALMIN Codes; breaches of these codes are part of the complaints process 

Penalties that can be imposed on members where a breach of the Code of Ethics and/or professional codes is found include:

  • caution/warning
  • mediation and/or counselling
  • further education and/or training
  • membership suspension or expulsion from AusIMM
  • publication of details of the breach, including public naming of the professional found to be in breach.

The intent is to ensure a sanction is appropriate to the breach while preserving the integrity of the profession and the AusIMM. The process is informed by natural justice principles and includes an avenue for appeal.

All deliberations of the Professional Conduct Committee and Ethics Committee are strictly confidential. The identity of the complainant is not disclosed to the person(s) about whom the complaint has been made or to any parties not involved in the process of determining the validity of the complaint. The identity of the complainant and respondent remains confidential, except in the following cases:

  • where the complainant agrees to reveal their name to the respondent when necessary to pursue the complaint
  • where the Ethics Committee has resolved that notice of a breach be published, in which case the name of the respondent may be made public; and
  • in the unlikely event that the matter advances to legal proceedings independent of the AusIMM process, where the identity of the complainant may become known as part of the discovery of documents, or if the AusIMM is directed by a court (or other legally empowered person) to make such information available.

The Professional Conduct and Ethics Committees

The Professional Conduct and Ethics Committees are jointly responsible for investigating and determining the outcome of complaints. The Professional Conduct Committee investigates each complaint received, with referrals made to the Ethics Committee if it is determined that a significant breach of the Code of Ethics has occurred.

2020 AusIMM Professional Conduct Committee

  • Mike Spreadborough FAusIMM (Chair)
  • Terry Briggs FAusIMM
  • Fran Burgess FAusIMM(CP)
  • Steve Gemell FAusIMM(CP)
  • Ingvar Kirchner FAusIMM
  • Deborah Lord FAusIMM
  • Colin Roberts FAusIMM(CP)

2020 AusIMM Ethics Committee

The revised Professional Conduct Regulations, which resulted from the Compliance Review in 2018, informed a transition of membership of the Ethics Committee to meet new requirements relating to tenure and committee composition. Given the retirement of three long-standing committee members and the impending retirement of one other committee member, five additional members were appointed for a three-year term in 2020.

  • Rex Berthelsen Hon FAusIMM(CP) Chair
  • David Abbott FAusIMM(CP)
  • Quentin Amos FAusIMM
  • Bruce Atkinson FAusIMM(CP)
  • Susan Border FAusIMM(CP)(Ret)
  • Tony Cameron FAusIMM
  • Ivy Chen FAusIMM
  • Jim Galvin FAusIMM(CP)
  • Matt Mullins FAusIMM
  • Stephen Munro FAusIMM(CP)

In 2020, fourteen complaints were submitted, which represented a significant increase when compared to 2019 when only five complaints were submitted. Of the fourteen cases, two matters continue to be under active consideration by the Professional Conduct Committee.

Of the remaining 12 cases, two were referred to the Ethics Committee by the Professional Conduct Committee for investigation and determination:

  • One matter related to a breach of clause 11 of the JORC Code, and while a low-level breach was found by the Committee, no sanction was imposed. The respondent in the matter was encouraged to complete an appropriate JORC Code Training program which was subsequently successfully completed with the AusIMM within the recommended timeframe.
  • The other matter also related to a breach of Clause 11 of the JORC Code and resulted in the issue of a warning with the respondent, who was also required to complete an appropriate JORC Code Training program within a period of six months. This is being monitored with the respondent.
  • Three cases were appealed to the Ethics Committee by a party to the complaint. One case related to various clause breaches of the VALMIN Code and resulted in the issue of a caution. The second case involved a breach of Clause 11 of the JORC Code, with the Ethics Committee confirming a low-level breach with no sanction imposed. In this instance the respondent was encouraged to complete an appropriate JORC Code Training program. The third case alleged a breach of By-Law 9.3 and Clause 3 of the Code of Ethics and was dismissed by the Ethics Committee.
  • In three cases allegations were made concerning:
    • a breach of the JORC Code (clauses 6 and 35);
    • a breach of AusIMM By-Law 20.7; and
    • a breach of By-Law 9.2 and AusIMM Code of Ethics clause 3.

All three cases were dismissed by the Professional Conduct Committee.

  • One case alleged breaches of Clauses 4, 20, 22, 24 & 39 of the JORC Code and while no breach was found, the respondent(s) were encouraged to ensure faithful adherence to the requirements of the JORC Code, particularly when acting as a Competent Person.
  • One case alleged a breach of Clauses 9b) and c) of the Professional Conduct Regulations and resulted in the issue of a caution.
  • Two cases have been suspended pending the pursuit of alternative resolution remedies. In both instances formal and satisfactory resolution is anticipated; however, if this does not occur, the reactivation of the cases within the compliance process will be confirmed.

There was a single case from 2019 which was resolved in 2020. This involved an appeal to an Independent Reviewer under Clause 33 of the 2019 Professional Conduct Regulations. While the review outcome endorsed the decision of the Ethics Committee (which included a requirement that respondent(s) complete an appropriate JORC Code Training program), a number of additional recommendations were made and acknowledged but not accepted by the Board.

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