21 October 2014
Meercats and Mining – Are we one and the same?
I get "out and about" a fair bit and was recently in Melbourne
for the IMARC & RIU Conferences - oh and conveniently to see
Hawthorn go back to back!! It seems the mining industry in recent
times has an uncanny likeness and closely mirrors the behaviours of
Seemingly gone is the old "7 year cycle" and has been replaced
with a volatile 7 day cycle. Only in years to come can we all look
back and see that the extreme volatility was all part of a slow and
steady upwards trend! Is that a light at the end of the tunnel, or
a train coming towards us?
Observing the industry and speaking to a vast array of
professionals on a daily basis, I see distinct similarities in the
current industry as I do with a gang of meercats! Many are waiting
to see what the leader does. Copies and follows them.
I can hear David Attenborough's voice loud and clear! "It's a
bright and sunny day out on the vast West Australian desert plains.
No rain in months, food sources are scarce and every move is
fraught with danger! The sentry meerkat (watch guard) gingerly
surfaces from their safe burrow, stands on his hind legs propped up
by his tail and acts as a lookout while the rest of the gang all
head to their highest vantage point to look for food and frolick in
The sentry, slightly disturbed and permanently nervous from
previous encounters believes that he spots danger on the horizon!
Is it danger, or just his imagination! With a distinctive warning
bark, the guard warns the gang and everyone sprints to their
nearest tunnel. The gang is safe, for now! But was there any danger
in the first place?
Precious time passes. The gang are all hungry and many won't
make it through the next few days. The sentry is always the first
to emerge from the burrow to check for danger and we repeat the
It seems that a lot of the mining industry are watching each
other - too closely. Waiting for someone else to make a move.
Waiting for signs that the coast is clear. The majority are highly
risk averse, stuck in the past, too slow to innovate and their pace
to progress would closely match that of a glacier! We are
predominantly governed by conventional thinking, yet we are one of
the worlds' oldest industries! Do I have the solutions? Not
particularly. Merely an informed observation! Everyone is an
expert! Everyone has an opinion! No-one has a definitive clue!
Mining is risky by nature - otherwise you are not a miner! You
have next to no control over prices and you are exposed to the
fluctuations, unknown variations in the ground (grade, structure)
and Murphy's Law will dictate that, more often than not, your
projects will be in some farfetched remote and inaccessible
location under hundreds of metres of cover. It's an incredibly
expensive process that requires strong commitment!
We are a robust industry and we'd all love to see things turn
for the better. A more stable and predictable market will emerge
and a return to sustained growth will happen! It is a light at the
end of the tunnel.
We need to lose the meerkat sentry behaviours and be driven by
our own instincts! Scour the horizon for danger yourself, believe
your own due diligence and take the leap! If we change the way we
look at things, the things we're looking at will change!
Take the step! You might get eaten, but you might also
Keen on your thoughts!?