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Meet the leader: Charles Miller, Emesent CEO

· 1200 words, 5 min read

The AusIMM Bulletin sat down with Charles Miller to discuss his career in the sector and current role as CEO of Emesent, an AusIMM Industry Partner. 

Charles talks about leadership, the significant opportunities he sees for the mining sector when it comes to autonomous drones and LiDAR mapping, and whether the industry is becoming more willing to adopt new technologies.

Can you please tell us a little bit about your professional background and your role with Emesent?

Originally from Canada and now based in Brisbane Australia, I have worked across many challenging and dynamic environments. With over 25 years of experience leading and transforming businesses across diverse industries, my passion lies in driving growth, and creating value for Emesent and the resources sector.

Emesent’s roots extend from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. CSIRO is renowned for groundbreaking research and innovation, and to me this signalled a commitment to cutting-edge technology and scientific rigor. The alignment between Emesent and an institution known for pushing boundaries and driving advancements appealed to my passion for innovation and excellence.

I initially joined Emesent as President/COO, and wanted to leverage my experience in operational leadership and strategic planning to drive the company forward. Transitioning to the role of CEO allowed me to further deepen my involvement in guiding Emesent’s strategic direction.

As a leader, I prioritise building agile and responsive teams while nurturing deep relationships with stakeholders. I firmly believe in fostering a culture of collaboration and shared purpose, recognising it as essential for achieving success at all levels of an organisation.

What are the opportunities you see for our sector (benefits to efficiency, health and safety, etc) when it comes to autonomous drones, LiDAR mapping, and data analytics? 

The integration of GPS-denied autonomous drones, LiDAR mapping, and data analytics presents significant opportunities for the mining sector across several key areas.

Firstly, these technologies offer substantial benefits to efficiency by streamlining surveying and mapping processes. Autonomous drones equipped with LiDAR sensors can rapidly capture high-resolution, three-dimensional images of mining sites, allowing for more accurate and detailed terrain mapping. This enables mining companies to optimise planning and design processes, leading to more efficient resource extraction and utilisation.

Furthermore, the use of autonomous drones and LiDAR mapping enhances health and safety in mining operations. By reducing the need for manual surveys in hazardous or remote areas, these technologies minimise workers’ exposure to potentially dangerous environments.

Additionally, real-time analytics capabilities enable proactive monitoring of site conditions, facilitating early detection of safety hazards and allowing for prompt intervention to mitigate risks. Data analytics derived from the collected LiDAR and drone imagery also offer insights that can optimise operational decision-making. Advanced analytics techniques can extract valuable information regarding terrain stability, mineral composition, and resource distribution, aiding in strategic planning and resource allocation. This data-driven approach enhances operation efficiency, reduces costs, and ultimately improves overall productivity in the mining sector.

Mining has sometimes been thought of as being risk-averse when it comes to adopting new technology, instead preferring ‘tried and true’ methods – do you think this is changing?

Yes, there’s a notable shift occurring in the mining industry regarding the adoption of new technology. While historically characterised by a preference for traditional methods due to risk aversion and concerns about operational disruptions, mining companies are increasingly recognising the potential benefits of embracing innovation. Factors such as the growing demand for increased efficiency, sustainability pressures, and the need to address operational challenges are driving this change. Additionally, advancements in technology, such as autonomous drones, LiDAR mapping, and data analytics, are becoming more accessible and proven in their ability to deliver tangible value. 

Moreover, I think industry leaders are witnessing successful case studies and pilot projects showcasing the transformative potential of new technologies in improving safety, productivity, and sustainability metrics. As a result, there’s a growing willingness among mining companies to explore and invest in innovative solutions that can drive operational excellence and competitive advantage.

What’s your philosophy towards promoting or encouraging professional training and development (PD) for your teams? 

My philosophy towards promoting professional training and development for my team centres on the belief that continuous learning is essential for individual growth, team effectiveness, and organisational success. I prioritise creating a culture that values and supports ongoing PD initiatives, recognising that investing in the development of employees not only enhances their skills and competencies but also fosters a motivated and engaged workforce. 

To promote PD, I encourage a proactive approach where team members are empowered to identify their learning goals and pursue opportunities that align with their career aspirations and the organisation’s strategic objectives. This may involve providing access to a variety of training programs, workshops, seminars, and online resources tailored to individual needs and interests. 

Furthermore, I believe in leading by example and actively participating in PD activities, demonstrating the importance of lifelong learning and professional growth. I foster a collaborative environment where knowledge sharing, mentorship, and peer-to-peer learning are encouraged, enabling team members to leverage each other’s expertise and experiences.

As a leader, what do you focus on to ensure a great workplace culture? 

Firstly, I prioritise clear communication, transparency, and openness, ensuring that everyone feels valued and informed about organisational goals, decisions, and changes. This cultivates trust and a sense of belonging within the team. 

Secondly, I emphasise the importance of fostering a supportive and inclusive environment where diversity is celebrated, and all voices are heard and respected. By promoting a culture of respect and empathy, I create a space where everyone feels empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and ideas. 

Additionally, I prioritise employee development and recognition, providing opportunities for growth, learning, and advancement, and acknowledging and celebrating achievements and contributions. Investing in the professional and personal development of team members and recognising their efforts and accomplishments is an important appreciation for, and commitment to, their success. 

I also lead by example, embodying the values and behaviours that I seek to promote within the workplace culture, such as integrity, accountability, and a commitment to excellence. 

From a professional standpoint, what are you most looking forward to in 2024?

Overall, I am eager to see Emesent achieve new milestones and make a positive impact both within our organisation and in the broader industry landscape.

From a company standpoint, I am most looking forward to driving Emesent towards achieving our strategic objectives and solidifying our position as a top employer in Australia. This entails delivering on our product roadmap, ensuring we continue to innovate and provide solutions that meet the evolving needs of our customers. Additionally, I am committed to ensuring that Emesent is not just global in name but truly operates as a global leader in our field. This involves expanding our presence and impact in key markets worldwide, forging strategic partnerships, and staying ahead of industry trends and developments.

I am also excited about building on our already strong employee engagement, fostering a workplace culture where team members feel empowered, motivated, and valued. By investing in employee development, recognition, and well-being, we want to further enhance employee satisfaction and retention, ultimately contributing to our success as an organisation. 

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