With a rise in commodity prices and increased investment in new and existing mining operations, we are once again seeing growth in the sector.
In a recent interview with Sam Bennett, our Director of Resources in ANZ, we discussed the benefits of the increase in investment to our clients, and in particular, the communities in which we operate. From undertaking stakeholder engagement and community consultation to leveraging innovative technology, instilling a culture of safety as well as improving diversity in the workplace, WSP is playing a key role in helping our society thrive.
“There is renewed confidence and optimism in the sector,” says Mr Bennett. “We are seeing a positive outlook for future orders and reduced operational costs as well as a growing belief that commodity prices will be maintained. Capital spending and investment is on the rise while there are moves towards market consolidation and global partnerships. Mining companies are developing new capabilities and adopting disruptive technology and automation to push competitive advantage through operational efficiencies.
“One of the good things to come out of the decade-long resources boom (2003-2013) and the difficulties we experienced afterwards is that companies no longer take anything for granted. They also understand the need for transparency and trust, especially around environmental management, climate change and sustainability. This is reflected in the high level of engagement taking place in communities all around the country.
“This is playing out in some interesting ways. For instance, Anglo American, Glencore and Rio Tinto have now passed shareholder resolutions regarding increased disclosure on climate change1. Others are allowing local communities to test the quality of a site’s water emissions using an app that delivers online access to water quality data and some are giving individuals the option to visit water discharge sites to conduct their own tests2. Apart from total transparency, this shows an unprecedented alignment between their social purpose and financial responsibility. What’s more, it creates an environment of shared responsibility where companies are encouraged to stay honest and community members are empowered to act on their concerns. The sector is certainly growing up.”
Locally Dedicated with International Scale
On the topic of how the professional services industry fared during the downturn in recent years, Mr Bennett explains that WSP was in the fortunate position of having significant involvement in some of the bigger projects that were progressing during this time such as Roy Hill. He says, “Commissions such as this have supported the firm’s drive to retain key capabilities and maintain a focused presence in the Resources sector including mining. This has positioned us well to respond quickly to clients as they increase investment.
“Our business model of being locally dedicated with international scale means we can provide clients with the same personalised services as a specialist firm while at the same time leveraging our worldwide expertise to undertake the most complex projects and assist our clients to realise their ambitions.
“The downturn was also a good opportunity for us to help our clients get more out of their assets and lower operational costs through the application of technology and innovation. One example of this is the increased collection and analysis of system data. Information gathered from continuously evolving control and condition monitoring systems, is helping to inform designers and operators and providing the opportunity to optimise outputs, coordinate cost effective maintenance activities and push assets harder to maximise returns.
“Whether it’s harnessing system intelligence, investing in plant or vehicle automation, or simply rethinking more traditional procurement strategies, the importance of challenging established cost norms is going to continue well into the future. Quite simply, optimising operations is necessary to ensure the longevity of the sector.”
The Safety Imperative
Over the past decade, the mining industry has made significant improvements in health and safety, reducing the incidence rates of both fatalities and serious injuries.
Mr Bennett says, “The mining industry still has one of the highest rates of fatalities of any industry. From WSP’s perspective, we truly are a people business. Not many organisations see all their assets head home at the end of the day and hope they return the next! We remain focused, primarily, on these assets and on our clients, as, in the end, neither can exist without the other.
“A key attribute of our success locally and globally is our commitment to safety. We have embedded a culture of ‘making safety personal’ which means our people are accountable for fostering a safe workplace and ensuring that transcends beyond the office and through to our projects. The global and local leadership teams lead by example and try to strive for excellence.”
Mr Bennett says, “Turning challenges into opportunities for our clients and communities is driven by our people.”
“Despite our size, we are lean and agile, while maintaining appropriate governance. Combined with this is the firm’s entrepreneurial approach where individuals are supported, empowered to do their jobs and held to account. This proactive leadership empowers our people to be client-focused and responsive while being accountable – not just to our clients, but also to our peers and stakeholders including the communities where we work.
“As part of strengthening our footprint in the sector, we have recently appointed Suzanne Jolly in the role of Business Development Executive for Resources in our Sydney office. She brings skills in environmental management, due diligence, strategic business development and will assist our clients in developing their opportunities and bringing their vision to life.”
Balancing the Scales
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency once said, “It’s a long way to the top for women who want to work in the rock and oil business.” Indeed, mining is the most male-dominated industry in Australia with women making up around 16% of the workforce.
Increasing the participation of women is something that’s on everyone’s agenda including BHP. The organisation has set an aspirational goal to achieve gender balance globally by 2025. Mr Bennett believes this target is a game changer for the sector and one that sets the pace for others to follow.
He says, “In its simplest form, gender balance is about equal opportunity, and this is a key area of focus for WSP. Having a wide range of perspectives, skills and energies makes us stronger collectively and better informed. Ultimately, we’re aiming to provide a richer workplace where the quality of our advice to clients is heightened, as are business outcomes. To help us achieve this, we’ve established five gender balance commitments that talk to having women on all shortlists, offering flexible working as a standard business practice, ensuring succession plans are balanced, providing our clients with diverse project teams, and addressing pay parity.
“In addition to this, we’re making sure that gender balance is part of the everyday dialogue we have across all levels of the business. This is how we’re turning up the dial to make changes at the grassroots level. The more we have these conversations, the more we can affect cultural change, and the more our workplace evolves.”
Where to Next?
Mr Bennett believes it’s an exciting time to be part of the Resources sector.
He says, “The outlook for growth is positive, the adoption of technology is transforming the sector and the level of community contributions continues to rise. The potential to boost productivity, innovation and sustainable outcomes as we help our clients meet demand for mineral and energy commodities is high, and that’s inspiring.”
Click here to find out more about WSP’s services for Resources and Industry.
1Deloitte Tracking the Trends 2018 Report, PwC Mine 2018 Report
2Deloitte Tracking the Trends 2018 Report
3Deloitte Tracking the Trends 2018 Report
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