Diggers 2019 day 3: An evolution in maturity

Underground digging in process

Diggers and Dealers has wrapped up for another year with an overwhelming sense that the lessons of the last boom and bust cycle have been learned.

Diggers and Dealers has wrapped up for another year with an overwhelming sense that the lessons of the last boom and bust cycle have been learned.

Mining People Managing Director Steve Heather said it was “a very different” Diggers forum this year. It felt, he said, “progressive” — with the majority of presentations revealing a real maturing of the current generation of mining leadership.

“They’re building profitable businesses; they’re aiming to keep costs low; they’re aiming to retain staff,” he said. “There’s a really solid emphasis on sustainability as opposed to the hype and hoopla of the past.”

Mining leaders keeping feet firmly on the ground

Mr Heather said it was perhaps no surprise that mining’s leaders were focused on building sustainable businesses.

“The time between the last bust and now, when things are roaring again, has really only been six years,” he said. “Quite often those cycles are 10 or 15 years, so a whole generation is lost.

“But I think what’s happened is the generation who are leading now still remember the pain from when it went wrong, and they’ve actually learnt the lesson. They seem to be saying, ‘no, we need to be conservative here.’ ”

A prime example was Jake Klein, Executive Chairman of Australian gold miner Evolution Mining.

“Here’s a man who is probably 50 running a $5.974 billion cap’ company who is saying ‘we’re not getting carried away with ourselves. Stuff the gold price, we’re going to keep producing gold at the same price per ounce and we’ll just bank the extra money and pay it back in dividends. We’re not getting loopy about all this.’ ”

Read the full Evolution Mining presentation here.

People an important part of sustainability

Mr Klein also talked a lot about the sustainability of Evolution’s people and culture, Mr Heather said.

“What companies are realising is if you allow all this froth and bubble to bid up the prices of everything, labour included, then ultimately you don’t actually make any more money,” Mr Heather said.

“Your revenue might be higher but you’re not actually making more money. You’re paying people more salary but they don’t feel valued, they’re not receiving any personal development, and so on.

“We know that one of the things that killed it last time is companies just kept pushing salaries higher and higher and as a result the costs of mining processes got out of control.”

Are your salaries and conditions of employment enough to keep turnover costs in check? Request a targeted remuneration and benefits research report to answer this question.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International