Mining People Matters

Steve Heather

Steve Heather, Managing Director and Co-founder of Mining People International (MPi).

How are you travelling?

Long straight road with blue sky

No-one could have anticipated the way 2020 is unfolding. How are you, your teams, and your families, holding up?

Many of us operate businesses either in, or servicing, the mining industry and one of my colleagues on the council of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association of Australia & NZ posted that he was officially fixing a sign above his front door that reads; 

“Thank God for Iron Ore” 

Thank you Matt Iustini at Technical Workforce.

I replied and said I’d also put one up that reads:

“Thank God for Gold”.

I feel it is fair to say, we are blessed, in Western Australia in particular. I acknowledge though that there are still many people doing it tough.

Wind back a few months though and I can’t think of a single year, except maybe 2000, that business had pinned so many hopes on. Many companies, and governments for that matter, viewed 2020 as an ideal milestone for long-term strategies. We envisioned an efficient, productive world and what we got has been something . . . well, it’s been something all right.

No-one would have imagined 2020 would be a year of calamities with the human cost far reaching.

The best way through this, now and into the future, will be to digitally reach across all the barriers we have erected; the intra state borders, the state borders and the international borders.

While on the ground they are hard and can be enforced, in the digital world they don’t exist.

Those entities and jurisdictions that are managing well, need not be smug. Those that are not doing so well, need not feel abandoned.

When I checked in last December after a brutal year in mining, I couldn’t have anticipated the challenges we would be facing only nine months later.

Be honest, did you have a global pandemic in your business plan? I know I didn’t.

It’s become obvious no-one could really imagine what we’ve faced so far and the uncertainty in which we continue to do business. Even our government leaders have struggled at what has been a brutal year, full stop.

 

So, I wanted to check in again and ask, are you okay?

I write this from the relative comfort of Western Australia, where our coronavirus experience has been so much milder than almost anywhere in the world. While it’s not a bad place to ride out a pandemic, there’s no doubt the WA Premier’s iron grip on our borders is causing all kinds of stresses for companies both outside and inside WA.

Mining in general is one of the bright spots of an economy battered by COVID-19, but it can also feel like all bets are off and the best-laid plans are out the window. Despite the optimism for our sector, it’s hard to stand by while families have to be separated, people and whole industries lose their livelihoods, and good businesses collapse in our communities – not through lack of leadership but by a largely unforeseen global health crisis.

My sense is no matter how much longer this crisis lasts, we’ll come out of it different than before. If necessity is the mother of all invention, COVID-19 will be responsible for incredible innovation in how we work, how we run our businesses, and how we set goals. It will force us to refocus priorities and remove complacency. It is already challenging leaders to rethink how they run their businesses, not for better margins but for survival.

I’d love to hear from our community about:

  • The challenges you’re facing
  • How are you managing during this time?
  • What tips or advice do you have for the rest of us?
  • What silver linings have you discovered?
  • Where are you seeing opportunities to effect change?
  • And lastly, what are you doing to look after your own mental health and how are you helping your teams do the same?

 

My personal experience?

Is set in the context of a chronically ill wife who has spent four months of this 2020 year to date, in hospital across five separate admissions (non-COVID related) and the other three months requiring constant care at home.

The early weeks of COVID when the uncertainty was high for all of us, mining included, coincided with the most dangerous period for my wife and resulted in the most stressful period of my life.

Initially I resisted the need for help, and I thought; “I can deal with this”. Gradually though I have come to realise that: “You know what mate, you can’t.”

Eventually I started to accept more help from friends and family and started to share the load with a team of people at work who have been nothing short of amazing.

When it comes to looking out for each other, no place, state, or country, should feel like an island, and nor should any person.

How are you travelling?

If I get enough interest and interesting lessons, I will share them in a later blog.