The International Mining Geology Conference 2022 will be headlined by renowned geocommunicator and geologist Haydon Mort. He shares his thoughts on how the geological community can confront its image problem with better communication and a reformed university curriculum.
Presented by the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM), the conference will occur on March 22-23 next year, both online and in-person at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
In front of 450 attendees, Haydon Mort will present a keynote speech about the volatile brand of modern mining and how the industry can lift itself out of a skills shortage.
As chief executive officer and founder of non-profit training organisation for budding geologists Geologize, Mort says the industry must swallow some tough pills over the next few years.
“(My speech) will contain some hard truths about why there is such a huge image problem for the mining industry in Australia and around the world,” Mort tells Australian Mining.
“Moving to the present, I will challenge current communication strategies and offer actionable solutions. I will argue that industry needs to stop complaining about low student intake at universities and take ownership and action.”
Mort and Geologize are based in the United Kingdom, and after 15 years of research and teaching experience around the world, he is well-positioned to offer advice on effective teaching practices for geology students.
Mort observes that more inclusive classes are typical of geoscience departments bucking the global trend of falling enrollments.
“What I can say is that those geology programs doing well in other parts of the world are embracing a more interdisciplinary and holistic approach,” he says.
“There is a much stronger emphasis on A.I. (artificial intelligence), programming, drones and more recently due to COVID, an effective and powerful blended learning platform, which actually enhances the student experience.”
Aside from the content itself, there is a growing importance placed on the nature in which it is taught.
“Those with the most vibrant and resilient departments are ones where good communication skills appear to be equally valued as publication success,” Mort says.
“Students feel inspired, valued and listened to. Word gets out that the faculty are dynamic and inclusive, and this attracts more applications.”
Mort believes it is in the interest of mining companies to invest in the effective communication training of students.
“The new generation of geoscientists will be the most effective ambassadors for those we want to attract from school and college. It makes sense for the mining industry to help them.
“The mining industry can do this by forming alliances with academia that will see funding for training for students, as well as new and existing faculty members,” he says.
In terms of changing the perception of mining so that such students become interested in joining the ranks of a mining company – the likes of which continue to power the nation’s economy – Mort acknowledges the conundrum they face.
“Public outreach and the activity of reframing the mining industry is either felt to be too big an issue to tackle for a smaller company, or it’s seen as too phoney from the larger ones,” he says.
Mort argues that these campaigns by miners and universities place too much focus on the self-importance of mining and geology, so much so that it becomes cliché at best and arrogant at worst.
“We tell people, ‘if it’s not grown, it’s mined’, ‘do you know how many elements are in your smartphone?’ and ‘have you thought about all the petroleum-based products in your life?’.
“This narrative may engage a few. But to the undecided or sceptical – arguably the majority – the subtext is clear; ‘you need us. Look at all we’ve done for you. You should be grateful.’
Instead, Mort suggests these entities become plain helpful to society in ways outside of their chief domain – digging dirt.
“Instead of spruiking the worth of your business to Australia, talk about something else. If you’re a miner, you don’t need to talk about mining,” he says.
He provides examples of starting educational YouTube channels or outreach programs and giving businesses value outside of commodity markets.
“If you make the connections subtle, emotional and delightful, rather than have it shoved down their throat, people will gravitate to and share your content,” Mort explains.
And once value is presented in such a way, we have a fighting chance of changing the public’s attitude and improving geoscience enrollments again, according to Mort.
“Much lip service is given to the importance of public outreach in geology. For too long public engagement has been seen as a noble but unnecessary pursuit, left to a handful of people,” he says. “This urgently needs to change.”
“To stem the academic and industrial haemorrhaging of talent to other scientific disciplines, we must acknowledge our past and present failures in communication to learn, adapt and grow.”
To find out more on Haydon Mort and his presentation at AusIMM’s International Mining Geology Conference 2022, visit the website: www.ausimm.com/mining-geology