While Australia’s mining industry is certainly facing a downturn, experts in the field say this is natural. As with most things in our universe, mining rolls in cycles. So worrying about a downswing is like worrying about whether the sun will come back up again in the morning.
Managing director of Korvest and chair of the Austmine board, Alexander Kachellek, put it perfectly when speaking to Australian Mining:
“Remember, ‘if it is down, then it will go up and if it is up, it will go down’; we just do not know the length of downs and ups!”
Austmine’s CEO, Christine Gibbs Steward (who recently won the Mining Industry Advocacy Award) is in agreement with Kachellek’s assessment. While mining has fallen from the heady heights of the last big boom, Australia’s Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector is still going impressively strong. With Christine at the helm, Austmine has become the leading company behind METS.
METS at a glance
According to Austmine’s research into the industry (conducted within the first few years of the downturn):
- The (METS sector is generating around $90 billion in revenue each year;
- The 400 companies surveyed generated $27 billion worth of exports;
- The Aussie METS sector, in collaboration with mining companies, is responsibly for world-leading innovations and mining solutions.
“The findings of the survey are exciting as they create a story of a highly successful sector which has not yet reached its potential. They are also extremely compelling as the mining boom subsides and Australia contemplates its economic future.”
Why we shouldn’t be concerned about the mining downturn
According to Christine, the natural industry downturns only hurt you if you’ve come to rely on the massive profits generated in the upswings and peaks. She says mining companies (and really anyone and everyone involved in the industry),
“can no longer afford to be ‘fat and lazy’ as we were famously accused of during the last boom; the entire sector must work together to ensure continuous improvement measures are consistently applied to operations and services.”
Rather than the ‘fat and lazy’ approach, we need to work the way animals do when preparing for winter; always with an eye to the future and awareness that what goes up must come down (and vice versa).
Even if you came into the tough times unprepared, Christine says there’s still hope; with plenty of opportunities both at home in Australia and overseas. Aussies from all levels of the industry, from miners to those in executive management, have been enjoying great success travelling overseas (if you’re looking for some inspiration, check out the story of an Aussie crane operator who’s been exploring the world from his work base in a Zambian copper mine).
If Africa is a bit far afield, there’s plenty of overseas work closer to home. Austmine’s similarly named, Ozmine program (which they’re building together with Austrade), is pushing for a focus on South East Asia. With 62% of current Aussie METS exports going to this region, we have a solid reputation and, therefore, a lot of opportunity for work and growth in the area.
Here in Australia, Adani’s controversial Carmichael project promises the possibility of making Queensland home to the world’s biggest coal mine. However Adani is facing staunch opposition and, even if the mine gets the go-ahead, Christine says projects of this magnitude are, for the time being, few and far between.
Christine’s biggest message on METS
Collaboration is key to surviving the cyclical nature of mining. Christine sees METS as a connected web that should involve all sorts of collaborative exchanges between the companies, the miners, the researchers and the government. Innovation must be embraced and people must work together to ensure Australia stays ahead of the game, grows even more competitive and doesn’t get overly fixated on downturn concerns.
“working with existing clients to deliver more value, or services… Making sure you are out there meeting with mid-tier miners is also a good option right now, as many of those are still looking to invest in operations to ensure they are profitable despite low resource prices. Keep speaking with industry representatives to stay across opportunities.”