Changing of the mineral guard

Over the past 12 months mining has weathered a changing of the guard with Rio, Anglo American, and BHP Billiton among those receiving new bosses to steer the companies through challenging times.

It seems industry groups are not immune to such change with the Minerals Council of Australia also receiving a new chairman and it will soon have a new CEO as Mitch Hooke prepares to exit his role.

Andrew Michelmore was this week elected to replace outgoing Chairman Peter Johnston who is stepping down to focus on his new role at Glencore.

Michelmore, who begins his new role immediately, is the managing director and chief executive officer of mining company MMG.

David Peever, Rio Tinto Australia managing director was also elected as senior vice chairman and Seamus French, Chief Executive Officer of Anglo American's Metallurgical Coal business was elected vice chairman.

Giving his final address to the Minerals Council, former chairman Peter Johnston said the mining sector has and will continue to deliver a significant amount to Australia.

Since the year 2000 mining has payed over $130 billion in taxes, or enough to fund the defence force for five years, Johnston explained.

But he warned the industry is at a cross roads, with over $150 billion worth of projects being shelved in the last 12 months it is imperative to become more productive and cost competitive.

“We are seeing companies take difficult decisions every day to reduce their costs structures,” he said.

Johnston said Australia has been identified as a high cost destination with declining productivity, and a deteriorating sovereign risk reputation.

“All of these issues need urgent attention,” he said.

Johnston warned higher taxes destroy value and investor confidence, and increased red and green tape delays projects.

“These impediments are no longer sustainable if Australia is to remain a world class minerals producer,” he said.

Newly appointed chairman Michelmore is known for his strong industry commentary.

In 2010 he was quoted saying potential changes to the mining royalties’ tax system by the Federal Government will “kill the goose that lays the golden egg”.

He has also previously weighed in on the worker productivity debate, saying the Australian workforce is soft and the nation is suffering from "rich country's disease".

Mitch Hooke’s replacement is yet to be named.

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