Delivering on new prospects for mining

The Australian Mining Prospect Awards has had several high-profile sponsors over the years. Australian Mining speaks to one foundation sponsor and one first-time sponsor of the event to find out why they are lending their support this year.

The 2018 Australian Mining Prospect Awards will take place this year at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday, October 18, 2018. The event, now in its 15th year, celebrates the best and brightest of Australia’s world-renowned mining industry across 13 sponsored award categories.

These categories include Hard Rock Mine of the Year; Community Interaction; Excellence in Mine Safety, OH&S; Contribution to Mining; Excellence in Environmental Management; Minerals Processing of the Year; Innovative Mining Solution; Safety Advocate; Lifetime Achievement Award; Mine Manager of the Year; Coal Mine of the Year; Contract Miner of the Year; and Australian Mine of the Year.

In 2018, the Hard Rock Mine of the Year and Contract Miner of the Year awards will now be sponsored by mining business Epiroc, which began independent operations earlier this year following the split of Swedish industrial manufacturer Atlas Copco into two distinct and separate businesses, Epiroc and Atlas Copco.

Epiroc is the mining and construction-focused portion of that business and is now completely separate from Atlas Copco. The split was to allow greater focus on the mining and natural resources markets and to be agile enough to meet the increasingly rapid pace of that global industry.

Epiroc was listed publicly on Nasdaq Stockholm in June, marking its start as an independent entity providing equipment, solutions and services for the mining and construction industries while Atlas Copco continues to exist with more of an industrial focus.

Pre-Epiroc, Atlas Copco had been a foundation supporter and sponsor of the Prospect Awards. The company played an essential role in the event’s history by introducing a split of a different kind to the awards categories that would prove an important influence on the future course of the event.

The company suggested that the original Mine of the Year award be chosen from two subcategories that eventually became the Coal Miner of the Year and Hard Rock Mine of the Year awards. The recipient of the ultimate award, Australian Mine of the Year, is now chosen from these two linked but distinct entries.

“At the time, we wanted to recognise the different roles of the owner-operator and contractor as they are two different kinds of skill sets,” says Shaiful Ali,  business line manager underground at Epiroc Australia.

“Our contribution has allowed these categories to exist and we’ve encouraged entries from customers and non-customers alike. I think they are two important areas of the mining industry that deserve recognition for the roles that they play.” 

Epiroc felt it was important to continue its association with the Prospect Awards even as a new and distinct entity. The mining industry has seen some dramatic changes over the past few years, says Ali, with two particular standouts being the continued growth of automation and the ever-increasing emphasis on the twin pillars of safety and productivity.

“If you are at the top of your game and put yourself forward for scrutiny by an award panel that then determines what you do is the best in a particular category or industry, I think that’s something to be proud of,” he says.

The awards also promote a positive image of the mining industry, which in spite of its importance to the Australian economy and Australian services often finds itself the subject of sceptical press and public misconception.

The Awards endeavours to shine a light on industry best practice, highlighting what companies and organisations are doing to show how environmental and social factors are taken seriously by the industry. Recognising the success of companies that place an emphasis on social and environmental responsibility in mining is important, as it promotes not just the industry on an internal level but externally to the public as well.

With an ongoing conversation in the industry around climate change, you have a lot of people questioning the future of mining in its various forms.

“The Prospect Awards are an opportunity to educate people on the way they view mines. It is a very important part of the Prospect Awards and others awards like them to give people an idea of what actually does happen in a mine,” said Ali.

“The social responsibility, the care — these are highly regulated industries and the participants within it to a large extent work exceptionally hard to meet environmental regulations and safety regulations to produce product that is sold worldwide.”

Mining and manufacturing giant Liebherr, a first-time sponsor at the Prospect Awards representing this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, also echoes this message of support.

Liebherr Group, like Epiroc, is of European origin, having roots in Switzerland and Germany. It is one of the largest manufacturers of heavy equipment in Europe, including mining and earthmoving equipment. Liebherr Australia executive general manager, sales and marketing, mining Tom Juric says that even being nominated is an important achievement.

“Recognition, including just be nominated, is important especially in such fast paced industries like technology and mining, where great ideas becoming greater ideas in the blink of an eye,” he says.

“It is also particularly important to recognise the employees that made these ideas and innovations happen, as employees are a key factor to Liebherr’s, and in fact all company’s success. A little bit of recognition can often go a long way in encouraging continued improvement.”

As a first-time sponsor, Liebherr has been particularly impressed by the calibre of the participants involved, according to Juric. Since its inception in 2004 the Prospect Awards has held a philosophy of celebrating the best and brightest of Australia’s mining minds no matter whether they are major industry players, small startup operations or individuals.

This democratisation has led to a wide variety of entrants across all categories, and as the Awards have grown across Australia, so to has the quality and volume of nominations. It is a celebration of innovation that can be very inspiring to both guests and sponsors of the event.

“It is important to us that we surround our employees with inspiring people,” says Juric. “After all, if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. Great ideas can come from anywhere — the common ingredient is great people.”

“Australia’s miners are among the most innovative in the world,” adds Ali. “We come up with lateral thinkers, we embrace technology (and change) quickly and the Prospect Awards highlight the work we’re doing both here and overseas.”