Keynote Address to the Melbourne Mining Club “The Culture of Cycles”

Where it started for me.....

In many ways it is quite apt that this is my last speech to any audience anywhere in my capacity as Chief Executive of the Minerals Council of Australia.

Apt, because it was Barry Cusack’s speech to this Club – ‘Mining Myths & Realities’ - only the second ever following the inaugural speech of Sir Arvi Pabo back in October 2001 - that was so instrumental in my accepting this role.

Some of you may know that Barry Cusack was then, not only the MD of Rio Tinto Australia, he was also President of the Minerals Council of Australia, and notwithstanding that I was quite flattered by his courting me for the job, I knocked him back - twice.

Dad had just died and I toyed with the idea of going back on the land, which is what I had always wanted to do and the reason I had studied Rural Science at the University of New England.

It was Barry’s speech and his grace in giving me time to reflect over the summer break that caused me to change my mind. Aside from the reality that I had little prospect of educating my three girls in a manner that I had been I was drawn to the challenge of being a part of the industry’s commitment to change on a platform of sustainable development.

Barry Cusack’s central thesis was that the industry needed to stop destroying shareholder value by ditching the myth that the next spin of the minerals cycle will save the industry’s bacon, and that the industry’s future was heavily founded in convincing the world that, and I quote ‘we can mine sustainably, which will require changes in the way we operate and that those changes will not be cost free.’

He went on to say that ‘the industry has no choice and that companies that will not and cannot meet higher public expectations [for higher standards of environmental and social stewardship] will face increasing competition and lose the confidence of the market’.

This was the first time that I heard the concept of ‘social licence to operate’, though those of you who know Barry well know that he protested that term vigorously – yet if he were here today, he might be somewhat embarrassed that I credit him and industry leaders like him with establishing arguably for the first time, the industry’s recognition that it in fact needed to earn and maintain a social licence, complimentary to its regulatory licence.

Cusack’s warnings were well founded.

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