Meet the 2021 Prospect Awards winners: Part one

Prospect Awards

The 2021 Australian Mining Prospect Awards were a chance to reward those who are excelling and going above and beyond, recognising and rewarding innovation throughout the industry.

Mining has always been a part of Australia’s landscape, playing a major role in the development of the nation from its earliest days.

With the sector remaining vigorous and innovational, for more than a decade the Australian Mining Prospect Awards have been the only national awards program to take a step back and appreciate what the mining industry is doing by rewarding those who are excelling and going above and beyond, recognising and rewarding innovation.

Established in 2004, the annual Australian Mining Prospect Awards are distinguished as the most prestigious and acclaimed awards in the country’s mining and mineral processing industry. 

We profile all the winners at the 2021 Australian Mining Prospect Awards. Here’s part one of the feature.

Australian Mine of the Year: Roy Hill
The most prestigious gong of the night, the Australian Mine of the Year Award commends a site that has not only reached its production goals, but has also implemented commendable safety controls, environmental and sustainability programs, and/or has shown its capacity to innovate in order to drive the industry ahead.

The award also recognises an exceptionally well-performing and achieving mine. It is imparted to a winner of one of the other categories, further adding to the prestige of the award.

And with two other wins on the night – Hard Rock Mine and Lifetime Achievement – Roy Hill Holdings was a worthy recipient of the Australian Mine of the Year Award.  

Roy Hill’s chief executive officer Gerhard Veldsman felt especially proud and honoured by the company’s accomplishments. 

“Being named both Hard Rock Mine of the Year and Australian Mine of the Year is a great honour and one we are all very proud of,” he said.

“In the financial year 2021, Roy Hill achieved outstanding improvements across both safety and production despite the ongoing challenges of COVID-19.

“We’re also pleased to have progressed significant new projects and growth opportunities, providing more jobs and increased royalties and revenues for state and federal governments, helping fund critical infrastructure and services.”

Hancock Prospecting Executive Chairman Gina Rinehart was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rinehart’s Lifetime Achievement Award coincided with her 30th anniversary as executive chairman of Hancock Prospecting, making this recognition that much more momentous.

“This exceptional period in Roy Hill’s history has been achieved under the inspiration and leadership provided by our executive chairman, Mrs Gina Rinehart, who quite fittingly was recognised tonight for her outstanding contribution to the industry in general,” Veldsman said. 

“Just one of the things Mrs Rinehart has led has included driving that we speed up the payment of the bills of our loyal suppliers. 

“And we are proud to say we are now one of the two fastest payers in the industry, further improving our relationships with our suppliers.”

Roy Hill is a renowned mining operation, representing the next generation of integrated iron ore mining, rail, and port projects. 

The company’s Marra Mamba iron ore deposit is located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, one of the world’s premier iron ore provinces. 

The mine delivered record iron ore shipments in FY21, which were seven per cent higher than FY20 and five per cent higher than FY19, achieving the best on-record equivalent annual run rate of more than 60 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) in the fourth quarter of FY21. 

The FY21 operating performance was achieved despite the impact of wet weather, as well as COVID-19 restrictions that required many Roy Hill employees to remain on-site for extended periods during WA’s border lockdowns and the disruptions to emplyees based in eastern states. 

A comprehensive COVID-19 risk management strategy remains in place and, at the time of the awards, Roy Hill had not recorded a single case of COVID-19 at its Pilbara mine (including both direct employees and contractors), or at its remote operations centre in Perth.

Roy Hill certainly has form at these awards, having received the Minerals Processing of the Year nod in 2020 for its development of the innovative Wet High Intensity Magnetic Separator (WHIMS).

Capturing high-grade ultrafine material that would otherwise end up as tailings, the WHIMS plant reduces waste and provides additional shipped ore without increasing the volume of material mined.  

The Australian Mine of the Year Award is proudly sponsored by National Group.

Lifetime Achievement Award: The Hon Dr Gina Rinehart AO
Hancock Prospecting’s executive chairman, the Hon Dr Gina Rinehart AO, was announced as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2021 Prospect Awards.

The Lifetime Achievement award recognises an individual who has contributed to the mining industry through their entire career. It is the most prestigious individual recognition award within the Prospect Awards and is determined through recommendations made by the judging panel.

The Lifetime Achievement Award coincides with Rinehart’s 30th anniversary as Hancock Prospecting executive chairman.

Under her leadership, Hancock Prospecting has gone from a company facing many difficulties, including financial, to the most successful private company in Australian history, as well as one of the most successful private mining companies in the world.

“On accepting this award I’d like to pay tribute to everyone in our industry. We are at our core nation-building, mining is the backbone of Australia,” Rinehart said. “When mining does well, so does Australia.”

Hancock’s majority-owned Roy Hill was also recognised on the night, winning Australian Mine of the Year and Hard Rock Mine of the Year.

Addressing her mining colleagues, Rinehart said the should all be immensely proud of their contribution to Australia, and of an industry to which she has dedicated most of her life. 

“My parents told me Dad was on the early morning shift when I was around one year old, and my job was to crunch up papers in his Pilbara office when he’d finished with them,” she said.

“As you can probably tell, I’m over the moon with this lifetime award, thank you.”

Rinehart has had a busy 12 months.

She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the General Division as part of the Australia Day 2022 Honours list.

The mining magnate, who was one of only 25 Australians selected for the honour this year, was recognised for “distinguished service to the mining sector, to the community through philanthropic initiatives and to sport as a patron”.

This year saw Hancock Prospecting file for environmental approval for a 20 million tonne per annum (Mtpa) iron ore mine on the Mulga Downs station in the Pilbara, WA. The proposed area is located within an area of existing pastoral and mining land use, with transport of the ore proposed via the Great Northern Highway to Port Hedland for export.

According to the proposal filed with the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority, facilities will be developed to support production of up to 20 million tonnes of ore per annum (Mtpa) over a minimum 30-year period.

Also this year, Hancock Prospecting signed a development agreement to lead a bankable feasibility study on the Hardey iron ore project in the West Pilbara owned by the Australian Premium Iron joint venture. Under the terms of the development agreement, Hancock will lead the development and operation of the project subject to a final investment decision.

As part of her acceptance speech, Rinehart highlighted that Australia’s minerals are largely in the north, far from city amenities. 

“Isn’t it time to bring in a special economic zone like the more than 7000 special economic zones operating very successfully around the world, including in countries that compete with us and others who may not always be our friends?” she said. 

“Our mining sector has delivered for the whole of Australia over many decades, opening up remote and rugged areas such as the Pilbara where I loved growing up. The mining industry provides employment opportunities, infrastructure and revenue in remote places, where little opportunities existed before.

“Let’s celebrate that mining contributes more to our nation than any other industry.”  

The Lifetime Achievement Award is proudly sponsored by Liebherr.

The Lifetime Achievement Award coincides with Gina Rinehart’s 30th anniversary as Hancock Prospecting executive chairman.

Hard Rock Mine of the Year: Roy Hill
Roy Hill Holdings was named Hard Rock Mine of the Year in recognition of its record production performance, improved safety, and the progression of several significant and strategic growth projects. 

This included the development of its autonomous haulage system, the introduction of new crusher infrastructure, and an expansion of the Wet High Intensity Magnetic Separator (WHIMS).

Roy Hill chief executive officer Gerhard Veldsman said 2021 was a fantastic year for the company.

“Under the guidance of our executive chairman Gina Rinehart and owners, Roy Hill has achieved so much since first ore was actually produced and shipped in 2015,” he said.

“Despite all the challenges of COVID, we have had our best safety year ever, we have had our best production year ever, and we have managed to actually secure some growth opportunities that will set us up really well into the future.

“I really want to thank everybody for the Hard Rock Mine of the Year on behalf of everyone here at Roy Hill.”

It has indeed been a big year for Roy Hill.

Last year, Mineral Resources partnered with Hancock Prospecting and Roy Hill to investigate the development of a new iron ore export facility in Port Hedland, Western Australia.

Stanley Point Berth 3 in South West Creek is shaping as a viable option for the major iron producers to expand their export capacities.

The agreement would see Roy Hill provide services to MinRes and Hancock to develop and operate the facility, including rail haulage and port services.

As a greenfield project, Roy Hill has had the rare opportunity to embed a range of technologies from its outset to optimise delivery across its supply-and-demand chain. 

The use of technology and innovative thinking have become defining features of the company’s iron ore operation.

Roy Hill recently announced it will purchase the world’s first fully battery-powered, heavy-haul locomotive from Pittsburgh-based Wabtec, transforming the cost of transporting iron ore from pit to port.

The FLXdrive locomotive will arrive on Australian shores in 2023 when Roy Hill will use it to haul iron ore through the heat of WA’s Pilbara.

Roy Hill currently operators four Wabtec ES44ACi Evolution Series diesel-electric locomotives, which typically measure 2.7km.

From 2023, the FLXdrive will replace one of the diesel-electric models.

Roy Hill will also convert its mixed fleet of 77 haul trucks from manned to autonomous use, having signed a contract in early 2020 with leading global mining equipment and services provider Epiroc in partnership with automation specialist ASI Mining.

This year’s Hard Rock Mine of the Year Award comes after Roy Hill’s WHIMS plant was named winner of the Minerals Processing of the Year category at the 2020 Prospect Awards ceremony.

Capturing high-grade ultrafine material that would otherwise end up as tailings, the WHIMS plant reduces waste and provides additional shipped ore without increasing the volume of material mined.

It was also painted a unique and eye-catching pink colour in support of the company’s executive chairman Gina Rinehart’s long-term commitment to breast cancer research and improved care, treatment, and patient support.

This year’s other Hard Rock Mine of the Year nominee was New Century, which acquired the Century Mine when it ceased production in 2016 and has executed an economic rehabilitation plan comprised of upgrading the mine’s existing world-class infrastructure. This rehabilitation was completed in August 2018 when the mine successfully entered production. 

Roy Hill’s vision is to be a high-performing iron ore business where people contribute, realise their full potential and help to build the best mining company in Australia.

The Hard Rock Mine of the Year Award is proudly sponsored by Epiroc.

The Hard Rock Mine of the Year Award was recognition of a strong year for Roy Hill.


Coal Mine of the Year: Yancoal’s Yarrabee mine
It was a big night for Yancoal Australia, with the company taking home three awards.

As a leading Australian coal producer, the gong for Coal Mine of the Year for its Yarrabee mine was a big one.

“It is absolutely amazing to have won this award for the recognition of the last two to three years’ worth of effort,’ former Yarrabee mine manager Cris Shadbolt said on the night.

The Coal Mine of the Year Award recognises a coal mine that is performing well or has carried out an innovative project or program. 

Located near Blackwater in Central Queensland’s Bowen Basin, the Yarrabee coal mine has been operational since the 1980s as a small-scale pulverised coal injection (PCI) coal producer. After its 2009 acquisition by Yancoal, the focus moved to exploration to establish additional reserves and strategic mining methods to exploit a structurally challenging high stripping ratio operation.

Yarrabee now produces ultra-low volatile, semi-anthracite PCI coal, exporting to steelmakers in Asia via the Port of Gladstone. Yarrabee has undergone a period of significant cultural and operational transformation over the last two years, resulting in a positive impact across the business. 

Yancoal prioritises its commitment to implementing a long-term strategy for growth and opportunity. It remains focused on investing into the Australian resources sector, realising operational efficiencies, reducing costs, and sharing services. 

Its long-term business priorities include projects, personal and building business transparency, compliance and efficiency.

“This is a really good reward for the team on-site, the corporate team for supporting us and the mining industry in general,” Shadbolt, who is now operations manager at Yancoal’s Moolarben Coal operations, said.

“Yancoal plans to head in the same direction for 2022.” 

Beyond Yarrabee, Yancoal’s Queensland mines include the Middlemount Joint Venture, as well as Moolarben, Hunter Valley Operations, Mount Thorley Warkworth, Stratford-Duralie, Ashton, Austar and Donaldson in New South Wales. It also manages the Cameby Downs and Premier coal mines in Queensland and WA, respectively, on behalf of Yankuang Energy. 

The Coal Mine of the Year Award is proudly sponsored by SEW Eurodrive.

Coal Mine of the Year may have been the biggest of Yancoal’s three awards.


Mine Manager of the Year: Cris Shadbolt
Yancoal’s former Yarrabee Coal operations manager Cris Shadbolt was recognised with the 2021 Mine Manager of the Year Award, an accolade which he said came as a huge surprise.

“(It) was a bit of a shock, actually, and I was extremely proud just to be nominated let alone win the award,” he said.

“This award isn’t about me, though; it is the acknowledgment of the combined efforts of a passionate team and entire site that I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to lead.”

Also winner of the 2021 Coal Mine of the Year Award, the Yarrabee operation in Queensland has been an undoubted mining success story, serving as a trusted partner to Asian steelmakers with its distinctive pulverised coal injection (PCI) product.

The mine’s achievements wouldn’t be possible without the contribution of Shadbolt and his team. For Shadbolt, cultivating a people-first operation was his most fulfilling accomplishment at Yarrabee.

“Reflecting on my time at Yarrabee, the most significant achievement for me … was the time spent in growing and developing our people,” he said. 

“The opportunities that are presented for every person on-site to develop, learn and become a part of something greater is amazing and being able to personally contribute and watch the growth in our people and their success across all levels is very rewarding.”

During his time at the mine, Shadbolt introduced the Yarrabee Way – Safety Culture Framework, which focuses on developing an on-site culture of a more engaged team, with the end goal of achieving a safer, more inclusive and better performing workplace.

Shadbolt said Yarrabee Way was heavily influenced by Yancoal’s broader business objectives.

“As a site we reflected on the key fundamentals that make Yancoal a great business and then applied them very specifically to the needs and wants of our site as defined by our people,” he said.

“From this guidance we developed four main projects that were each owned by the management team on-site and guided and sponsored by myself. These projects focused on safety, proficiency, cost and development. 

“As a team we then developed strategies around communication and site ownership. Every project had direct input from every level of the business and all ideas were heard and actioned.”

Shadbolt is now the operations manager of Yancoal’s Moolarben coal operation in New South Wales, which comprises four open cut mines and three underground mines.  

The Mine Manager of the Year Award is proudly sponsored by CRC Industries.

Cris Shadbolt (left) and Bill McKinstrey (right).


Indigenous Engagement Award: Sandvik Australia
Sandvik Australia was bestowed with the Indigenous Engagement Award upon the implementation of its 2020–22 Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). 

This award recognises collaboration between Aboriginal-owned businesses and mining and minerals process companies operating in Australia. 

All finalists were commended for their notable efforts to engage Aboriginal people, commerce and processes within their respective organisations. 

In acceptance of the award, Sandvik’s Melita Hegarty emphasised the significance of such initiatives within Australian organisations and Sandvik’s passion for its Innovate RAP. 

“We are so grateful to be recognised in the category of Indigenous Engagement,” she said.

“This really is an award where everyone wins, as this work is so important to not only the business and First Nation’s businesses, but it’s creating a better Australia for everyone.”

Sandvik’s Innovate RAP outlines actions that work towards achieving its contribution, vision and commitment to reconciliation in Australia.

As part of its Innovate RAP, Sandvik established several noteworthy partnerships with Aboriginal-owned companies which have increased camaraderie and cultural awareness, as well as spending with Indigenous businesses. 

Yakeen Safety was named Sandvik’s first Major National Indigenous Supplier Agreement in July 2021 and now provides personal protective equipment requirements for all Sandvik divisions across Australia. 

Earlier in 2021, Sandvik also established a relationship with Geared Up Culcha, an Aboriginal-owned and operated promotional products supplier, to produce all of Sandvik’s RAP merchandise which is available to staff for purchase through an internal system with the aim to increase cultural awareness inside the organisation. 

Following these collaborative pursuits, Sandvik also partnered up with Mirri Mirri Productions to provide virtual cultural awareness training to self-enrolled employees. 

Sandvik’s Innovate RAP stipulates that by August 2022 the organisation aims to increase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment rate to four per cent, double the current rate of two per cent. 

Reconciliation Australia formally endorsed Sandvik’s Innovate RAP and welcomed the organisation as a member of the RAP community involving more than 1000 dedicated corporate, government, and not-for-profit organisations that have formally committed to reconciliation through the program.  

Sandvik’s Melita Hegarty emphasised the significance of initiatives like the company’s Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan.

Safety Advocate of the Year Award: Fenner Conveyors
Fenner Conveyors received the Safety Advocate of the Year Award, which recognises and rewards safety excellence across the Australian mining industry. 

Vicki Wust, Fenner’s general manager of safety, training and technical, was bestowed with the honourable recognition in the category upon the implementation of a list of safety initiatives in the pursuit of total safety for Fenner’s employees.

“It is such an honour to win this award, but it isn’t just for me, but for everyone in the team because we can’t change the safety culture in Fenner if it’s not from the ground up all the way to the director level,” Wust said on the night.

“There’s been a lot of hard work around our whole workforce to put our programs in place and start managing safety from ourselves first, rather than being policed in order to create a safe workplace. 

“It’s that real cultural shift and, to me, it’s a sign of saying Fenner Conveyors is on the right track, and it’s nice to be recognised within our industry for that.”

As part of the Australian Mining Prospect Awards, this recognition serves of great significance due to the shortfalls in the health and safety areas of mining, which industry regulations continue to tackle more and more rigorously. 

The presentation evening showcases the best operations, projects, and innovations developed by mining and mining equipment, technology and services (METS) companies, ensuring outstanding individual and team performances are recognised. 

Wust’s safety strategy is underpinned by adopting a universal approach that spans within the company’s workforce and is designed to encourage everyone to play a part.

“We’ve done what we call a VOC program, and that’s for critical operations. So assessing the equipment that is actually high-risk that our employees work with,” Wust said. 

“We’ve also implemented a revamped onboarding and induction program and made sure that rolls out over a three-month period from the new starters coming in. 

“We were sitting at 94 per cent of the entire workforce at that stage had completed the process and so we were really engaging everyone through that.”

Fenner strives to revolutionise safety within the mining industry with intelligent conveying products and services. 

More recently it has been transforming mine safety with its iBelt BeltGauge. BeltGauge provides mobile monitoring solutions that reduce the need for manual inspections of mine sites, which can result in grave ramifications for the safety of personnel on-site. 

It is available in a fixed or mobile unit – the fixed unit provides 24–7 autonomous monitoring, removing the need for any technicians on-site performing hazardous tasks.

While the mobile unit doesn’t eliminate technicians from the site, it reduces the risk of damage to equipment, the conveyor system and, most importantly, the person performing the scan. 

Fenner also implemented Safe Act Observations – SAOs – which allow employees in the field to take the time to observe the job at hand.

“It’s to make the person stop and think whether the job has all the risks covered, managed, and controlled and they just have that safety discussion,” Wust said.

“This has had a real link to our total recordable injury frequency rates (TRIFR) and severity rates going down. For instance, back in June 2019 we were sitting at 4.40, and then by June 2021 we were sitting at 1.50. That’s a 62.9 per cent reduction.

“In January 2021, it was the first time Fenner had ever achieved under a two TRIFR in its whole lifetime of operations, which we then hit below one in August.”

These incredible achievements have set the tone for safety in the industry, resulting in the win by Wust and the whole team at Fenner Conveyors, who are doing wonders for the safety of their workers.  

The Safety Advocate of the Year Award is proudly sponsored by Flexco.

Fenner’s Vicki Wust described winning the Safety Advocate of the Year Award as “such an honour”.


This feature appeared in the May issue of Australian Mining.

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