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The Clean Energy Industrial Revolution is underway

· 650 words, 2 minute read

Ahead of her keynote address at this year's Life of Mine Conference, The Australian Aluminium Council's CEO, Marghanita Johnston, shares her views on clean energy, decarbonisation, and the circular economy, plus her advice to mining students entering the workforce.

Marghanita Johnson

Life of Mine Keynote Speaker
Chief Executive Officer at The Australian Aluminium Council
Marghanita has been the CEO of the Australian Aluminium Council since 2019. She has over 25 years’ experience in the Australian mining and manufacturing sectors, predominantly within the aluminium industry. Prior to joining the Council she led government engagement and advocacy on behalf of Rio Tinto’s Pacific Aluminium assets and prior to that held key climate and sustainability roles...
Your career in Australian mining started over 25 years ago. What are the biggest changes and advanced developments you have seen during your career, predominantly within the aluminium industry?

The biggest changes I have seen since I started in the industry have been the integration of all aspects of sustainability into operational across the mining and mineral processing sectors. For example, I learnt about climate change as a theoretical topic at university; then in my early days I did some corporate reporting on greenhouse gas emissions – but we were only really counting emissions, not actively reducing them.

Now, I see across my industry the research which has been going on for longer than I have been around is coming to fruition. We have pathways to actively decarbonise and teams working within each operation to achieve this.

Industrial transformation is not going to be easy or low cost, but I can see the clean energy industrial revolution is underway.

Following on, what are the biggest trends you are seeing in the sector today with respect to life-of-mine planning, and what innovations do you predict we will be seeing in the future and the challenges that follow? 

One of the trends which is growing globally, but to date is relatively untapped in Australia is a circular economy – treating our resources as a circular industry and not as waste.

If we start consciously designing for circularity this does not mean we will not need mining, but it does mean we will think about the end before we think about the beginning. This will not only help design out waste, but also maintain our products at their highest value. Circular economy thinking also changes how we think about biodiversity and ecosystem services, and the roles our industry has to play.

What message would you like to highlight to the delegates at this upcoming conference?

Without mining, the world cannot reach net zero by 2050, and the quantity of minerals required to achieve our decarbonisation goals are of such magnitude that to reach net zero, we will need more mining, not less.

Australia has a wealth of mineral and renewable resources which collective provides us with a competitive advantage to not only mine but also process our mineral resources here into value added products.

But we need to consider society’s expectations of the mining and mineral processing industries, across the life of mine life,  the full range of sustainability issues and how we can as an industry continue to meet these. And if we can’t, what is the alternative?

Our student members and young professionals’ network will be attending #LOM2023, what advice do you have for students to kick start their career in mining?

If you are still studying and get the chance to do vacation work or complete an intern placement, take it. Even if its not in the field you think you want to work in. Finding out what you do like (and do not like for that matter) is so important when looking for your early roles.

I took a job as a Vacation Chemist at an Alumina Refinery – even though I had no intention at that point of working in mineral processing or as a chemist and discovered I loved the industry. But I also had friends who did a 12-week placement in a mine, they did not love it, and they decided they were better suited to consulting. It is better to find out as a vacation student than to take a permanent role once you graduate.

Even once you graduate look for those informal learning opportunities to see what you enjoy and what you are good at. Take secondments, placements, do the unglamorous soil sample trips where you get covered in dirt – you never know where the spontaneous opportunities will take you. I pivoted my career to focus on Government Relations 15 years ago because someone else could not make a meeting.

Hear Marghanita's highly anticipated keynote address "Mining - Critical to a Clean Energy Future" by registering today for AusIMM's Life of Mine Conference 2 - 4 August 2023.
Register now

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