Mining's who's who share pearls of wisdom in new book

SOME of the biggest names in global mining have written essays for a new book commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Melbourne Mining Club.
Mining's who's who share pearls of wisdom in new book Mining's who's who share pearls of wisdom in new book Mining's who's who share pearls of wisdom in new book Mining's who's who share pearls of wisdom in new book Mining's who's who share pearls of wisdom in new book

Ivan Glasenberg speaking at the Melbourne Mining Club in 2012

MMC 20+20 features essays from 30 industry leaders, plus photos, all of who have spoken at the MMC since 2001.

The impressive line-up includes Robert Friedland, former Glencore boss Ivan Glasenberg, BHP CEO Mike Henry, Rio Tinto alumni Leigh Clifford AO, Tom Albanese and Barry Cusack, former and current Anglo American CEOs Cynthia Carroll and Mark Cutifani, respectively, and Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest and CEO Elizabeth Gaines.

Their contributions to the book reflect on the past 20 years and look forward to the next 20.

The late Sir Arvi Parbo, the MMC's first patron, made the first speech to the club in front of 200 people in August 2001, which is included in the book.

The speech - which would be just as relevant if it were to be delivered in 2021 - reflects on the industry's need for transparency and global competitiveness and predicts growth in demand for minerals.

More broadly, the rise of China, Climate change and decarbonisation, technology and innovation, ESG, the COVID-19 pandemic and improving indigenous relations are common themes throughout the essays.

Newcrest Mining CEO Sandeep Biswas and former MMG boss Andrew Michelmore each noted the progress the industry had made on safety over the past two decades, while OZ Minerals boss Andrew Cole suggested the policies and regulations that had achieved that goal had come at the expense of agility and independent thinking.

IGO CEO Peter Bradford encouraged the industry to invest more in exploration and to view it through the same lens that investors in the biotechnology space view R&D.

"These investors understand the risk of taking a new drug from R&D through to commercialisation, and the significant reward that is available should a company be successful," he wrote.

"Exploration in the mining industry is no different and is vital if the industry is to deliver the mines of the future."

Glasenberg has been a long-time critic of the sector's poor returns, particularly during the supercycle.

"That's why the sector trades at poor price-earnings multiples - a maximum of 4-5-times - while other industries trade at much larger multiples," he wrote.

"When China's economic boom emerged in 2002, this led to a huge demand for commodities. The industry did everything possible to feed that demand and subsequently oversupplied it. We invested close to US$1 trillion in capital and shareholders' money in developing new mines at the top of the cycle. Today, few of these mines are yet to deliver a decent return.

"That is the history of mining since 2000."

Glasenberg said he had encouraged Warren Buffett to invest in Glencore years ago.

"'No,' he said. ‘I don't like your industry.' He said we produce generic and unbranded products, and as soon as demand is strong we dig new, bigger and better holes somewhere else and oversupply markets," he wrote.

Glasenberg said everyone had been burnt in 2008 and 2015 and the sector was yet to fully recover the trust of investors.

"What is starting to re-focus the industry is companies adopting a ‘value over volume' approach," he said.

"This should boost returns and earnings multiples. However, China as consumer of half the world's commodities has already foreseen this.

"The country wants to become less reliant on commodities such as iron ore from Brazil and Australia, and seek to develop its own supply as it is doing with nickel from Indonesia, copper/cobalt from Africa and, potentially, iron ore from Guinea."

  ike enry with ekko ystems founder lizabeth ewisray at the  in 2016BHP CEO Mike Henry with Gekko Systems founder Elizabeth Lewis-Gray at the MMC in 2016

Many industry leaders lamented broader society's opinion of the mining sector and the need for better communication.

"We're as essential as the health sector is to the overall health of society, and to maintain our sustainability, it's up to us to better explain what the industry does and how we contribute to addressing our planet's biggest challenges," Forrest said.

Carroll said despite the constant scrutiny, the world needed minerals.

"Against a backdrop of perceptions of mining as an old, dangerous, polluting and destructive industry, we now see an industry emerging that's vital to the low-carbon economy, safer, more environmentally protective and leading technological innovation," she said.

"Miners must do their part to apply world-class practices while creating value for their shareholders and the broader community."

Better communication was also required to attract the next crop of mining leaders.

Former Citadel Resources Group boss and current Metal Bank chair Ines Scotland said most young people saw miners as "people in boots, wearing hard hats and driving big trucks".

"There's not been any global communication that mining has moved far beyond this," she wrote.

"Mining must reposition itself as part of the solution rather than as part of the problem. It needs to be communicating to people that renewable energy is fantastic, but that mining is a key input to its development. And that as responsible miners, we're doing great things internally to make sure that we are a part of that renewables story."

Former Goldcorp CEO Chuck Jeannes said miners needed to continue to educate about what they do.

"We are responsible stewards of the environment, our safety performance continues to dramatically improve, we greatly benefit the health and welfare of the communities where we operate, and our industry is highly-focused on the key issues of diversity and climate change," he said.

"We need to redouble our efforts, be better about not just doing these things, but also communicating our successes.

"Ultimately, miners dig holes in the ground and that can be perceived as negatively affecting the Earth, so we must mitigate that impact to the fullest extent possible and be excellent at providing overall benefits to society."

The 84-page book was self-funded by the MMC and will be given away for free.

It will be available for download at 3pm AEST today by clicking here.

The MMC has also had 1000 hard copies printed, which will be given away to attendees at the club's next luncheon later this year, COVID restrictions permitting.

The reporter is a volunteer member of the Melbourne Mining Club Steering Committee.