Does your Business Need An Extra Set of Eyes?

Today’s challenging business environment means everyone is short-staffed and under the pump. Pushed to their limits, it’s very hard for business owners to be innovative and challenge the status quo, when they’re constantly “fire-fighting”.


Often, CEOs or CFOs are too close to the business, too deeply immersed in the day-to-day grind, that they can’t take a much-needed pause to see the forest through the trees.


At MEC Mining , we often hear the tired phrases “we’ve always done it that way” and “we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work”.


It’s imperative businesses understand that being courageous with ideas is what separates the companies looking to maintain the status quo versus those who are looking to lead the pack.


There’s no doubt that the business environment has changed – investors and business operators alike are more risk-averse – but we must maintain the charge for innovation and challenge and change, for the better.


Just because something hasn’t worked before, doesn’t mean it won’t come to fruition in the future. And by bringing in a fresh set of eyes like MEC, you can often much more clearly see multi-million opportunities you may not have been able to pinpoint on your own.

Become a Better Leader in 5 Steps

Have you ever doubted your leadership skills, or thought maybe perhaps because you haven’t studied business management you wouldn’t be very good at it? The truth is, we all have the ability to become a leader as incredible as Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore. Leadership is an important function of management which helps to maximise efficiency and to achieve organisational goals. Leadership is the potential to influence behaviour of others. It is also defined as the capacity to influence a group towards the realisation of a goal. Leaders are required to develop future visions, and to motivate the organisational members to want to achieve the visions. According to Keith Davis, “Leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically. It is the human factor which binds a group together and motivates it towards goals.” 

Here are five easy to follow step to focus on, in order to lead your team more effectively: 

1. Communication is key 

Clearly communicating to your team what you are trying to achieve, and setting a common goal is critical. Utilising every communication tool and ensuring you do so frequently by using online messaging platforms, email or face-to-face meetings, is paramount for leaders. 

2. Lead with positivity 

A positive attitude will go a long way to keeping your team motivated. It is important to transform your frustration into a positive and proactive approach. This problem-solving attitude will prevent your team from becoming too overwhelmed or burning out. 

3. Be honest, constructive and approachable 

Your team will be a reflection of the values you uphold, so it is important to be honest and genuine in your role. Many leaders develop a list of core beliefs and values that they strive to deliver with their team. When there is an issue, it’s important to air it out and squash it early. 

4. Tailor your approach 

When working with different people, remember that one approach to leadership will not work for everyone. Develop leadership skills that are dynamic and can respond to individual needs. Some team members may prefer to collaborate often, while others work better with a set list of tasks. Take the time to build your understanding of each person’s preference so that you can meet their needs. 

5. Walk the talk 

There is nothing more powerful for employees than observing the “big bosses” do the actions or behaviours they are requesting from others. Your team will appreciate that you are personally knowledgeable about the effort needed to get the work done. They will trust your leadership because you have undergone their experience. 

The World’s Most Versatile Metal? Top Five Silver Uses

Silver – that precious, shiny white metal – has traditionally been highly prized for its symbolism of wealth and prestige and its associated use in jewellery and coins. 

However, silver is currently much more commonly used for industrial, medical and electrical purposes, such as in household goods, solar panels and mobile phones. 

Rare and valuable, silver is highly coveted because it resists corrosion and oxidation, it is the best thermal and electrical conductor of all metals and it is antimicrobial and non-toxic. 

And talk about versatile – silver can be ground into powder, paste, shaved into flakes, converted into salt, alloyed with other metals, flattened into printable sheets, drawn into wires and more. 

Here are some popular silver uses: 

  • Eclectic electric: Small quantities of silver are used in electrical switches, plasma TVs, light emitting diodes (LED) and DVDs and CDs have a thin, silver recording layer. Another interesting electronic application of silver is in batteries that employ silver oxide or silver zinc alloys. And electronics demand silver of the highest purity: 99.99 per cent pure, also known as having a fineness of 999.9. But wait, there’s more – dissolving pure silver in nitric acid produces silver nitrate, which can be formed into powder or flakes. This material can be fabricated into contacts or silver pastes, which has many uses – such as the rear defrost in many cars, in electronics, circuit paths and in photovoltaic cells for the production of solar energy. Nanosilver, silver with an extremely small particle size, provides a new frontier for technological innovation as it requires much smaller amounts of silver to get the job done. 
  • Hot and cold: Brazing and soldering make excellent use of silver’s high tensile strength and ductility to create joints between two metal pieces. Brazing takes place at temperatures above 600C, while soldering takes place at temperatures below 600C. Silver scrap can be used in brazing and soldering because these processes do not require very pure silver. Brazing and soldering produce tight joints for everything from heating and air-conditioning vents to plumbing. And silver’s antibacterial properties and non-toxicity make it a great replacement for lead-based bonds between water pipes. 
  • Chemical reaction: Silver acts as a catalyst to produce two important chemicals: ethylene oxide and formaldehyde. Ethylene oxide is used to produce moulded plastics like plastic handles and flexible plastics, such as polyester. It is also a major ingredient in antifreeze. As a catalyst, silver increases the speed of reactions without getting used up. Now, that’s clever! 
  • My precious: Along with gold, silver has long been used as a precious metal in coins. In the past, people accumulated their wealth in the form of silver coins. Today, people covet investment-grade, pure silver bullion bars, coins or medallions. The fact that silver does not corrode and only melts at a relatively high temperature, not to mention its attractive lustre and malleability, results in this multipurpose metal being commonly used for designing and minting local currency. Many people also choose to invest in silver through financial tools, such as stocks and mutual funds. 
  • Shiny art: Silver jewellery and silverware are still popular today due to the precious metal’s malleability, reflectivity and shiny lustre. However, because silver is so soft, it must be alloyed with base metals like copper, as in the case of sterling silver, which is made up of 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent copper. Less expensive than gold, silver is also a fashionable choice for fine dining dishes, plates and accompanying silverware – and these can often be ornately crafted works of art. 

Potash – The Essential Element

Potash is the general term for potassium bearing minerals. It was named after the extraction process used in the pre-industrial era when wood ashes were immersed in water and leaching took effect. When the solution evaporated sediment of potassium carbonate was left behind on the inside of the large iron pots.  Potassium is a highly reactive alkaline metal and is not found in isolation in nature. It readily forms compounds in the form of chlorides, nitrates, carbonates, bromides, cyanide, sulphates and hydroxides. Known by its chemical name K, potassium is an essential element to both plant and human life. 

Potash is the seventh most abundant element in the earth’s crust. The world’s leading producers are Canada, Russia and Belarus. Current extraction levels are in the region of 35 million tonnes per year and demand is growing. Most potash is extracted from underground salt deposits. As the world population continues to grow, the pressure is being placed upon primary producers to maximise crop yields. But in turn, intensive farming methods can rob the soil of potassium which must then be replenished to sustain levels of production. Potassium is essential for all animal and plant life in order to thrive and survive.  Perhaps no surprise then, that the dominant use for potash is for fertilizer. But compounds of potassium have many applications. 

Let’s look at the leading uses for potash : 

  • Leading by a country mile– The primary use for potash around the globe is for fertilizer. Potassium is needed by plants to take up water, synthesize sugars for growth, and enable disease resistance. Potash fertilizer also improves plant formulation, the taste of end product and boosts flower quality. Another vital role in agriculture is in animal feed supplements. Potassium is crucial in the diet of dairy cows and supplementation can significantly improve milk production. 
  • You are what you eat – potassium carbonate is regularly used in food production, particularly as a leavening agent in baking. Another commonly used compound, potassium metabisulphite is used by the brewing and winemaking industries. It works as an antioxidant and limits the growth of wild yeasts and bacteria in your favourite drink.  Cheers! 
  • Getting into a lather – potassium hydroxide is used in soap making. It has greater solubility that of sodium soaps.  This means the soap needs less water to liquify. It is also used to make detergents and dyes. 
  • Kill or cure – there are many pharmaceutical applications for potassium in health care. It is an essential element to life where both deficiency and excess can be fatal. Our potassium requirements are usually met easily through our diet so supplementation is rarely needed. Exceptions include certain health condition or taking medications that rob your body of potassium. More common uses include saline drips and potassium permanganate for the treatment of various skin conditions. 
  • Softly softly – potassium chloride can be used in the treatment of water. Some people enjoy softened water in their homes for better bubbles in the bath but soft water is also a significant requirement in an industrial setting. Many manufacturing processes utilize large volumes of water, which if left untreated leave damaging sediments in pipelines and equipment. Potassium chloride is considered an environmentally friendly option as the residue from the process is taken up by plant life. 

For generations, potash has been recognised as pivotal for growth and sustaining life. But as the world faces increasing pressure to utilise land more efficiently for optimal food production, potash is a commodity that is very much back in the spotlight. 

Why I Have Made It My Mission To Connect With Every Mining Engineer In Australia

If you type the words mining engineer into LinkedIn and limit the location to Australia the search shows around 5,700 people. Not that many when you consider the scale of the Australian mining industry. This is just enough people to fill 11% of Suncorp Stadium or only 6% of the MCG. It is little wonder that as the industry heats up we are all struggling to find resources from such a small pool of people. It does, however, raises some interesting questions: 

  • With a relatively small number of people, why is there not more collaboration? 
  • Why do we struggle to share information and potentially mitigate, making the same mistakes that others may have already solved through the school of hard knocks? 
  • Why isn’t there an easier way to leverage this network when searching for new talent? 
  • How many degrees of separation are there from all the other mining engineers in Australia and yourself? 

This is why I have made it my mission to connect with every mining engineer in Australia because I believe we can do better in all these areas. By increasing the collaboration and sharing amongst our peers with more ongoing communication; sharing career advice; offering our time to mentor and coach the next generation of talent; communicating on the job learnings, and most importantly creating a community that encourages the next generation of students to consider mining engineering as a worthy pursuit. 

Have a think about your connectivity to these 5,700 engineers, what is your first level connection %? How close are you to only one degree of separation from all our peers in the industry with your second level connection %? And what are you doing to share the info you come across on a daily basis with this group? 

Please share this article to help get all mining engineers connected and collaborating, our industry will benefit as a result. 

Written by  Simon Cohn 

Top 3 Nickel Uses – The Power Metal

Nickel is a chemical element with symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. 

It belongs to the transition metals category and it is hard and malleable. The metal is extracted from its ores by heating and reducing the ore. 

Nickel-containing materials play a major role in our everyday lives – from food preparation equipment through to mobile phones, medical equipment and transport, buildings and power generation. 

Australia’s share of world economic resources of nickel was 23 per cent in 2014. The Philippines is the world’s largest nickel-producer, closely followed by Russia, Canada and Australia. 

Here are nickel’s top three important uses: 

  1. Mix and match: More than 80 per cent of nickel production is used in alloys. There are up to 3000 nickel-containing alloys in everyday use. About 90 per cent of all new nickel sold each year goes into alloys, with two-thirds going into stainless-steel manufacturing. When alloyed with other elements, nickel imparts significant toughness, strength, resistance to corrosion and various electrical, magnetic and heat-resistant properties. Stainless steel, in turn, is used widely in the chemical and construction industries, motor vehicles and in consumer products such as sinks, cooking utensils, cutlery and whitegoods. 
  1. Power metal: Nickel is a vital part of several rechargeable battery systems used in electronics, power tools, transport and emergency power supply. Most important today are nickel-metal hydride (NiMH). Iron and nickel alloys are the most widely used in electronics and specialist engineering. And nickel is also a key ingredient in many catalysts used to make chemical reactions more efficient. Talk about power! Nickel is also used in mobile-phone electrical connections, capacitors and batteries. 
  1. Money talks: Today, copper-nickel alloys are popularly used for coinage, with nickel itself having a long and illustrious history of being utilised in US coins. The US five-cent piece (known as a ‘nickel’) is 25 per cent nickel and 75 per cent copper. However, due to the metal being a skin allergen for some people and the fact that today cheaper metals are available, the element is no longer as widely used in coinage. The initial design of the US Shield Nickel was struck from 1866-1883, but was then replaced by the Liberty Head nickel. The Buffalo Nickel was introduced in 1913 as part of a drive to increase the beauty of American coinage; in 1938, the Jefferson Nickel followed. In 2004 and 2005, special designs in honour of the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition  the first American voyage to cross what is now the western portion of the United States  were issued. 

LITTLE BIT LONELY AS A FIFO WORKER?

We hear you. It can be so hard to feel connected to your loved ones when you’re hours apart and missing out on events, catch-ups and quality time with them. 

Luckily, keeping in contact while you are on a roster, has never been easier than in this day and age! 

Here are six platforms to use to stay up to date and in contact with your loved ones. 

1. Skype/Facetime/Facebook Video 

This is the closest thing to face-to-face contact. Perfect for live family chats to communicate all at the same times. It’s free and simple to keep in touch – all you need is a Wi-Fi connection. 

2. WhatsApp 

The perfect app for group chats. Send messages, images, gifs, voice recordings, etc;  all at your leisure. 

3. Videos and Voice Recordings 

No need for special apps to nail this one – but you can sing happy birthday into the phone and send it to your loved one on their birthday, just as an example. 

4. Family Organiser Apps 

Get “Cozi” to keep you in the loop with what’s happening in people’s day-to-day life at home. This way you’ll never be out of the loop when it comes to appointments, playdates, and everything in-between. 

5. Podcasts/Movies 

Organise to both watch or listen to a podcast/movie at the same time as each other – then talk about it over the phone later. 

6. Online/App games 

There are so many live games to play with others. Grab a mate and load up your console. 

5 ways to stand out from the job-seeking crowd

Thanks to the internet and social media, job searching is now more competitive than ever before. As skilled candidates jostle for attention in a fast-paced market, how do you make sure that employers see you and see your potential? 

We’ve put together these tips for increasing your visibility and maximising that exposure to land the roles you want. 

Lift your LinkedIn game 

Recruiters scour LinkedIn for excellent candidates, and it’s become an essential platform for professionals to promote themselves. If you’re not using LinkedIn well, you’re doing yourself a big disservice, so if you know your profile needs work then get stuck in now! 

Do these things and you’re off to a great start: 

  • Put your best foot forward with a clear, compelling headline. 
  • Use a professional headshot. 
  • Write a brief summary that tells your story and highlights your most relevant experience. 
  • Give examples and quantify your achievements with specific facts and figures where possible. Show how you made a difference in the organisations you’ve worked for. 
  • Get endorsements. An easy way to do this is to endorse others; they’ll often return the favour. 
  • Get recommendations. Be specific when asking a connection to write you a recommendation; give them an idea of what you’d like covered so that it’s relevant to your job search. 

Do research 

Find out all you can about companies you want to work for. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to keep up with their news and gauge their key concerns. Then use this information to make yourself an appealing candidate. 

Cultivate relationships 

The importance of networking can’t be overstated. Hiring decisions are often the result of referrals, so if you have contacts who can suggest jobs for you and introduce you to employers you should capitalise on those relationships. Signing up with a recruitment company (like ours!) that specialises in your field is also a great way to find opportunities that are right for you. 

Also, stay in touch with people after interviews – even if you didn’t get the job. Think strategically about building relationships that could be lucrative for you in the long term. 

Be a positive presence 

People want to hire positive people – let this guide the way you present yourself online. Whether on social media or your own website or blog, avoid airing grievances about jobs and be cautious about negative comments generally. 

You can cultivate your professional brand by: 

  • developing a clean, error-free website of your own that includes an online resume 
  • using consistent branding across your website, social media and business cards 
  • liking, sharing and commenting on industry articles on Twitter and LinkedIn. 

Make friends with Google 

Make your website or blog rich in keywords in order to rank well in Google search results. Look for common terms in job descriptions for your industry and then incorporate them into your online resume. Also make sure to write acronyms out in full the first time you use them on a web page. Improving your searchability means you’re increasing the number of people seeing your credentials, so it pays to pay attention to keywords. 

VUCA Planning: what does a resilient mine plan look like?

Many of us have entered 2020 with a great deal of trepidation. It seems the only thing we can rely on this year is taxes and death (too soon?). The world is becoming increasingly volatile and uncertainty reigns supreme, as such it is probably time we started to accept this as the new normal. If it isn’t the Coronavirus it will be a long drought, a flood, a supply chain disruption or a tech disruption that will cause us to have to suddenly change tack. But how do you plan for disruption when you have no idea what will cause it in the future.

We hear a lot about VUCA, a situation that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and or Ambiguous, what we don’t hear a lot about is what it takes to carve a path through that.

  • Where you have Volatility you need to apply Vision,
  • Where you have Uncertainty you need to increase your Understanding,
  • Where you have Complexity you must create Clarity and Simplicity
  • Where you have Ambiguity you need to find a way to be Adaptable

Managing External VUCA Risks:

Variability is not a new phenomenon in nature and we have many mathematical solutions to help us understand the impacts of these in terms we can intrinsically understand as a business risk. The factors impacting a business can be numerous and overwhelming but each financial model we build has estimations for what we expect from a market such as predicted volume, supply, demand, exchange rates etc. One of the most respected methods for understanding risk is the Monte Carlo simulation. This is used to understand the probability of different outcomes of intervention of random variables. It provides a great platform for financial impact scenario modelling.

In addition to this and perhaps in compliment; in operations, there is a well-known model called “the News Vendor Model” for estimating what volume of product a company can expect to move in a market that has uncertainty in demand and particularly where there is a perishable element to the product (think coal). In short, it provides guidance on the question of what demand might look like in a risk-balanced approached. It is a simple formula that factors in the cost of what will be sold at “clearance” if there is oversupply against what the loss is in opportunity if you failed to supply enough based on long spans of historical data. It is not common in mining but has been used sporadically in volatile spot markets ad to assess investments, as such we think it might be a tool worth adding to the mix.

Managing Internal VUCA Risks

Internal supply to market issues in mining nearly always stem from failure to manage operational risk, be it safety, an understanding of geological risk or the ability to safeguard and manage your assets. When share prices fall for mining companies the majority of times it’s because operations were managed poorly rather than external market conditions. A mining company must know how to manage the known unknowns and unknown unknowns. Robust procedures for maintenance of assets and supply chains will assist in reducing this risk, and common threats to production such as unplanned geotechnical movement, wet weather including seasonal floods and cyclones, drought, fire and safety can be prevented or managed from the top down with a robust risk management system and risk registers that are linked to everyday actions. We highly recommend a regular audit process as a means of establishing best practice in risk management for each of these areas.  

Beyond this building resilience into your mine plan extends to how you well you are set up to manage the pivots in the market. In this case how you define ore is critical to being able to pivot and take advantage of the swings and roundabouts. If you have activity-based accounting methods and cost models for defining ore that are well modelled you can quickly flex to change your definition of ore when you need it most and take advantage of the market conditions.

Being Digital is offering a significant advantage to companies who have invested in the tech. If it’s done right it will enable you to work out where you are losing volume, time and money along the value chain and quickly correct course. If your data is live you can enable Short Interval Control to step in before a problem evolves.

The world may well be a VUCA place but if you want to stay in business you need to install Vision, Clarity, Understanding and Agility into your operational environments. 

Graduate Program Embraces Working From Home

Rain, hail, shine or coronavirus – the MEC Mining Graduate Program still thrives!

The MEC Mining Graduate Program has continued despite the current restrictions of the COVID-19 virus. Principal of Learning & Development, Loren Ager and Brisbane based MEC Mining Graduates Zhongwei Wang, Ivy Pan and Leandro Nunes have continued to contribute to the business by working from home.

Leandro Nunes describes the way in which MEC has enabled graduates to work from home. “MEC has supported me by providing a computer with all the software I need to keep working from home. It is different from working in the office as I must explain myself better so others can help me properly. But we adapted to the situation, and I still feel like I am developing as an engineer. I expected to learn basic engineering skills in the Graduate Program, like mining software, and I have kept learning these skills from home. So, the output of the program has not changed, only the way we are doing it.”

Zhongwei Wang has reflected on a working from home environment. “At the beginning, I thought WFH might be a challenge to me as a graduate mining engineer, and that lack of face to face supervision from senior colleagues might be a problem. This would be especially the case when I got stuck and found it hard to describe the issue precisely. The fact is, I have successfully overcome this challenge and completed my haul road design work under the supervision of Lukman – a great mentor.  I appreciate MEC’s quick response to the pandemic.  They have taken care of the wellbeing and health of their employees, especially for me as a graduate mining engineer working from home”.

Ivy Pan has reflected on how the team works together. “With support from the MEC family, especially our team leader, we are doing well or even better on our tasks. They are providing us with VPN to connect our shared drives, the access of remote control from home, dongles of Vulcan, etc. Moreover, our team leader – Loren holds graduate catch-up meetings every Thursday to make sure that everyone on the graduate team is well and helps solve problems that we’re facing.”