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Five essential insights from AusIMM’s Thought Leadership Series

AusIMM Bulletin
· 1000 words, 4 min read
Sunrise over earth from space

AusIMM’s 2020 Thought Leadership Online Series featured some of the biggest names in our industry exploring the new frontiers of the resources sector. Read the top five Series insights.

Miner on site

1. The mining sector is resilient, even in the face of global uncertainty

In the opening event of the Thought Leadership Online Series, Chris Dodd explored PwC’s Global Mine 2020 report and discussed how mining companies have innovated, adapted and responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chris pointed out that resilience in the resources sector has been a key aspect of the pandemic. From the first news of the virus right through to present day, the economic importance of the industry has come to the fore, with many countries managing to keep their industry operating relatively successfully.

While Chris acknowledged mining hasn’t been totally immune from the challenges of COVID-19, the sector has managed to weather the storm better than many others and, in general, the supply and price of commodities have remained resilient.

Chris noted that there were areas highlighted by the pandemic that the industry has, until now, taken as a given. Companies would do well to consider improved inventory management, combined with diversified supply chains, to ensure ongoing success in an uncertain world.

2. Rethinking cross-industry collaboration can help transform mining

Michelle Ash, GEOVIA CEO at Dassault Systèmes, gave a thought-provoking presentation on sustainable technology and changing social perceptions of mining. One area that was discussed was the opportunity for the industry to be broader and bolder when it comes to collaboration.

Michelle said the automotive industry has done a fantastic job at collaborating; being clear on where they will ‘compete’ and where they will work together. Michelle believes mining companies shouldn’t compete on technologies, but rather collaborate with and encourage the METS sector to solve problems for the benefit of the entire industry.

Michelle also noted that while a culture of sharing exists in mining around health and safety learnings, the industry should challenge its thinking on other types of collaboration for the ongoing strength of the entire sector.

Rural mine site

3. Mining requires a long-term approach to social licence and stakeholder management

Phineas Glover, Head of ESG Research Asia-Pacific at Credit Suisse, provided an in-depth look at the key drivers of environmental, social and governance performance and how these relate to financial performance in the resources sector.

A key point Phineas shared was all stakeholder relationships (government, local communities, etc) need to be cultivated and sustained over the potentially decades-long life of an asset, even as those stakeholders change.

Phineas gave the example of an iron ore project, which on average can take more than ten years to come into production and have an operating lifespan of 70 years. Compared with the relatively short cycles of federal elections (three years), there would be potentially 24 election cycles throughout the life of a mining operation. As another example, the average tenure of a CEO in Australia is just under five years.

This means a strategic and long-term understanding of environmental, social and governance performance and the impact of changing societal expectations and legislation is critical for any resources company and its leaders.

4. Cybersecurity is not just an IT problem

Fergus Hanson, Director of the International Cyber Policy Centre, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, closed his discussion with a clear message: cyber security is not just for the technical IT teams in mining organisations; it is something that everyone needs to own.

Fergus stressed that people in mining – particularly leaders – should appreciate the nature of their company’s risk profile, and have a clear understanding of the skills, capabilities and systems that are in place to manage that risk. To help achieve this, Fergus referenced a concept in cyber security hygiene called the ‘five knows’:

  1. know the value of your data
  2. know who has access to your data
  3. know where your data is located
  4. know who is protecting your data
  5. know how well protected your data is.

This framework is a good yardstick for corporations to better understand their cyber security risk profile and help determine the systems and personnel needed to keep their data secure.

5. Recovering resources in space is not as far off as you might think, and mining professionals have a key role to play

In the final event in the Series, former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander Pamela Melroy helped separate science-fiction from fact when it comes to space mining. In particular, despite the huge amount of wealth contained in asteroids (one estimate from NASA put the wealth of a single asteroid at USD$10,000 quadrillion), Pamela explained that the capability and business case for asteroid mining doesn’t currently exist.

However, there is real potential for recovering resources – particularly water – from the moon, with projects underway to have humans living and working on the moon in the next decade. Recovering water would be a vital step in having a permanent lunar human presence for research, and provide a launching pad for missions further into space, including Mars.

Critically, Pamela noted that Australia’s remote asset capability in the mining sector was world-leading, and the expertise and skills Australia’s resources professionals are using on Earth can play a huge role in space exploration. The Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth (AROSE) brings together mining and space companies to collaborate and explore future possibilities for knowledge and skills transfer. The exciting possibilities for resources professionals to play a central role in space exploration can help to attract a new generation of leading-edge thinkers into the resources sector.


Thank you to our partners

AusIMM would like to acknowledge our Thought Leadership Series partners for their support in delivering our 2020 series to a global audience.

Signature Partner: PwC

Major Partners: Dassault Systèmes, METS Ignited, Rio Tinto

Series Partners: Ausenco, Epiroc, Impactful Presenters, University of New South Wales

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