Why the PEOPLE in Mining, SHOULD matter to you!


Why the PEOPLE in Mining, SHOULD matter to you!

This blog title 'Mining People Matters' is a cute play on words… Consequently I’ve fielded every wisecrack under the sun, the best usually some variation of: Ah, so you mine people – very clever!” ' Well… not really. TO be clear, our job IS to help you explore for the best fitting people and so I guess we ARE ‘people miners’, of a fashion. Whether you believe these nuances are overly cute, or even infantile, by being purposely vague and open to interpretation they have done their job well by drawing attention to our beliefs being;

  1. The PEOPLE in Mining DO MATTER and
  2. PEOPLE issues, in mining, MATTER.
Regular feedback confirms that through a difficult period of price contraction, cost cutting, headcount (hate that word) reduction and savage business plan overhauling, our messages bring a welcome balance to the mostly senior executives who read this column. The majority being from; 
  1. Principal Mining companies
  2. Mining Service companies
  3. Consulting, Law and Accounting firms
  4. Recruitment and Search businesses and
  5. Others broadly interested in personal development in an employee/employer setting.
While the readership fast approaches 3000, you though may have only read a small number of these articles, or in fact be getting this for the very first time. However long you’ve been with me, I’d LOVE to get your feedback. I want to continue to present issues that ring true with all these readership groups, that continue to be edgy enough to always get your attention and also, to motivate you to share them with others.   With that in mind, I’ve created a brief precis of articles over the journey for your ease of review. Please dip into any that catch your attention and let me know what you liked, what you didn’t and what you might want to hear more about. We sincerely hope we’re nearing the start of a new positive upturn in the commodities cycle however if you have been involved (directly or indirectly) for more than ten years you would know well that this industry is a wild ride some of the time (actually almost ALL of the time). As I see it, helping each other be reminded that there is usually some bigger game going on is an important piece in the puzzle of surviving the mining roller coaster. Enjoy and I look forward to hearing from you...

The mining game – a wild ride – and the best thing CEO’s and Boards can do...

March 17, 2013
Not long after I qualified as a Mining Engineer I was given my first job as a (very naive) shift supervisor. Clearly I had no clue as to how to deliver instructions and feedback with grace and respect. I knew instantly I didn’t know this after a very experienced underground miner proceeded to throw a chainsaw at me during our morning briefing! Fortunately, it was not running at the time. It was a clarifying moment. Mining is my industry of choice and so I always look to put things into that context where possible and to use my experience and make my points as clearly as I can (without the chainsaw). Some examples from this my first original MPM blog post..
  • Distinguish the unique cultures of big miners v small ones and explorers vs producers.
  • Compare ore bodies to auto production factories:
  • The ore body rules – everything – including the types of people you should employ.
  • Senior operational managers as entrepreneurs.. and considering all of this…
  • The best things mining CEO’s and boards can do...

So you’ve done cost cutting. Now for innovation, but do your people know how to do it?

September 19, 2013
A lot of people who find their way into senior operational and technical roles (where they have influence and/or responsibility) tend to move into those roles (say at Department Manager level and beyond), in their early to mid 30’s. Most resources industry graduates that left University at say 23 years of age in 2000 are now 36 years of age. By deduction, most of them have never seen anything other than rising prices and rising costs. There are exceptions, however as a group they have never experienced an environment where there was a constant drive to reduce costs, to get more out of people and equipment and to look for innovative ways of doing things. They have largely worked their whole careers in an environment of price taking, wage acceleration and ever-increasing employee benefits.

Due diligence … and mining the elephant in the boardroom

June 4, 2014
Elephant in the boardroom
When making senior executive appointments, is the question; “Who do we know”? good enough? NO, there is so much more to think, about….

True innovation is more than just shrinking and slashing!

August 1, 2014
Mining Tax Fail
True innovation is often talked about as requiring a kind of parallel thinking. The issue today though, is how do we create the environment or “space”, where true creative thinking can occur and where ideas (and problems) can be allowed to flow in and then be followed, often randomly, to a natural conclusion? One thing seems certain. A world where the eyes (and therefore the mind, to which they are connected) flick back and forth to the flashing light of a smartphone, warning us of the arrival of yet another communication, of no doubt epic importance – ain’t it!

We exist to make a difference…

September 12, 2014
Dwarf Miner
After what feels like an extended period of time, defending ourselves from the threat of disaster, I see an awful lot of exhaustion on the faces of mining and mining services company executives right now. During such times it is probably worth reflecting that we ALL need a break and we all need a ‘pick me up’ of some (any) form. Look around you, not just at the people who report to you, but also those that you report to. 

Is Your Board or Management Team Conflicted?

November 7, 2014
The Eureka Stockade, 3 December, 1854 Eureka, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
According to the experts, the Mining BSMA (buy, sell, merge, abandon) phase, is due to crank into gear. This will be a busy time for boards, who will all be aligned, working away tirelessly in the best interests of all stakeholders right?  That’s one image, however to me it often seems that many boards and management teams are heavily influenced by self-interest and conflict, despite the best intentions for them not to be. As well as these internal issues, the environment of BSMA often involves a battle between a big guy and a little guy and someone wanting to impose rules on someone else. The oppressed party will quietly feel as if they being forced to do something they don’t want, or to live by rules they don’t agree with. Please feel free to pass any of these article links on, provide me your feedback in whatever form you see fit and I look forward to catching up with you soon.
Steve Heather
Managing Director & Principal Executive Search