Tag Archives: IMARC

Miners need to address workplace culture, diversity issues, IMARC panel says

There has been keen focus on workplace culture and diversity on the final day of the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Sydney, Australia.

Throughout the conference, mining leaders have acknowledged that if the industry does not act now to fix and change the culture, they will not be able to attract the staff required for the new resources boom.

Chief People Office at IGO, Sam Retallack, told the conference: “We as industry have broken the psychological contract of trust that we have with the community. We are seen as a cause of climate change, not as a solution. We are seen as an unsafe workplace for females, we are seen as inflexible with our rostering and that you must commit to FIFO work. It’s not a particularly attractive proposition for new workers.”

Danielle Martin, Director of Social Performance at ICMM, spoke to the substantial issues facing the industry as workforce skills change and evolve.

“The competition for talent will be tricky for mining because the skills in many cases are less specific to mining and are applicable across other sectors,” Martin said. “Because of the culture and perception of mining, it is a less attractive industry for many workers who could work in other industries.”

All is not lost, however. Stuart Jenner, General Manager of Capability and Culture at Gold Road Resources, reflected on the cultural issues the Australian Defence Force faced 20 years ago. Changes to workplace culture will likely lead to an increase in the recruitment of new staff and the retention of key talent as the competition for skills intensifies, he argued.

Jenner said the Defence Force “recreated its brand and aligned it with its purpose and mining needs to do the same”.

He added: “We need to be upfront, honest and transparent to establish that purpose. The Defence Force pays nowhere near what the mining industry does but because of their purpose, they have a huge amount of success in attracting talent.”

There is a realisation from the sector the industry must act now and push for the acknowledgment that these issues need to be addressed from the top down.

Gavin Wood, Chief Information Officer at Newcrest Mining, explained to the delegates at IMARC the work the company is doing to change culture with their existing workforce.

Wood said many of its existing staff grew up in mining areas and communities and the company needed to give them the skills to interact with other aspects of business and by virtue society.

“If we do not give them these skills the culture will not change,” he said.

Over the three-day conference, mining leaders from across the globe have challenged the current standard of culture within the sector and have discussed ways to make the industry safer for all.

IMDEX’s Lawie on BLAST DOG’s continual orebody knowledge evolution

In a presentation to the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Sydney, Australia, today, entitled ‘Get a Dog’, IMDEX Chief Geoscientist and Chief Technologist – Mining, Dave Lawie, charted the five-year development journey of the company’s BLAST DOG™ technology that, the company says, provides unrivalled pre-blast orebody knowledge and a 3D view into the bench.

BLAST DOG is a commodity-agnostic blast hole sensing and physical measurement technology that will provide near real-time blast hole physicals and orebody knowledge, according to IMDEX. The value of the technology is in the power of integrated data, enabling experts to make informed decisions that affect each stage of the mining value chain.

“Ten years ago, orebody knowledge was quite an abstract notion,” Dr Lawie said. “When we first discussed it, people wanted more information. Five years ago, they were becoming more interested, and today it’s a theme in the industry.

“IMDEX has led that discussion and been at the forefront of the development of technologies that deliver better orebody knowledge. Reliable orebody knowledge is central to good mine planning. It provides the data that allows for informed decision making that delivers savings throughout the mining life cycle.”

The BLAST DOG sensor is on a track-mounted robotic platform with semi-autonomous hole positioning and alignment capability working over variable terrain and bench conditions, IMDEX explained.

IMDEX Chief Geoscientist and Chief Technologist – Mining, Dave Lawie

Directly and rapidly measuring the orebody via blast holes reveals what the ore reserve looks like in the ground, at a high resolution, and immediately prior to its extraction, providing mining companies with “insurance” data that protects people, heritage, equipment and neighbouring communities, according to the company.

The data has the potential to be used to develop programs to, the company says, improve safety; mine planning; blast design; fragmentation; reduce fume, flyrock, vibration, air-blast and dust; and improve material assignment post blast.

Dr Lawie said an IMARC presentation in 2015 discussing spatial factors among the activity drivers in mining confirmed to IMDEX that its identification and focus on orebody knowledge was correct. But at the time there was no “Internet of Geosensing” system able to deliver the right information.

“The reference to spatial factors is really the Internet of Geosensing; IoG is an orebody knowledge system, and that’s what BLAST DOG delivers,” he said.

The reduction or management of variation alone creates value, with the characterisation of waste as important as the identification of the target metals or minerals, according to IMDEX.

It creates the opportunity for better segregation of ore from waste during mining and, therefore, grade optimisation as well as maximisation of ore recovery and minimisation of dilution.

With the delivery vehicle coming from Universal Field Robots and the downhole sensors designed and refined by IMDEX, the addition of MinePortal 3D visualisation software has accelerated IMDEX BLAST DOG for mining production, IMDEX says.

The company achieved its first commercial contract with BLAST DOG in August this year, at Iron Bridge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with the agreement providing for the staged use of up to three units together with associated products, software, data analysis, reporting and support.

Six commercial prototype trials are planned for the 2023 financial year under the first phase of BLAST DOG development.

IMDEX concluded: “The BLAST DOG technology will continue to evolve, with new answer products, novel and democratised modelling and visual outputs being developed along with expansion to other commodities and geographies and eventually to underground applications.”

IMARC panel tackles decarbonisation need and rising power costs dilemma

The second day of the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC), in Sydney, Australia, has put a spotlight on the industry’s response to ESG and energy transition.

The keynote address was a panel discussion focusing on energy transition and decarbonisation. The panel was made up of global heavyweights from the energy, mining, infrastructure and digital sectors.

Setting the scene, David Solsky, Vice President Sustainability Software Solutions at IBM, said: “We are on the verge of the biggest transformation of the global economy in a century.”

Sarah Barker, Head of Climate Risk Governance at Minter Ellison, added to this, saying: “What is certain is that the energy transition is going to happen. What is unknown is when or how. We do know, however, transitions are not linear; they tend to be bumpy.”

Talking to the mammoth task ahead, Sue Brown, Executive Group Director Sustainability at Worley, said: “The scale of investment needed in energy infrastructure alone will need to increase four or five times every year for the next 20 to 30 years.”

However, the transition comes with risk warns Michael van Maanen, Executive General Manager, Corporate, Government and Community at Whitehaven Coal. Maanen understands the social and economic imperative of transitioning to green and renewable energy but believes the transition must not come at the expense of exponentially higher power prices.

“Investors are accelerating the transition much faster than customers can bear and that’s problematic,” he said.

Eng. Suliman Bin Khaled Almazroua, CEO of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, explained how Saudi Arabia is tackling energy costs amid their rapid transition to renewable and green energy.

“We have added sustainability to our equation when determining risk in new projects,” he said. “What we have found is that by doing that we are creating long-term value for companies who want to invest new projects.”

Over the three-day conference from November 2-4, delegates at IMARC have discussed how to best approach energy transition and the need to decarbonise, using the forum to determine global best practices and to explore new technologies that can with the transition.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC

BHP pursuing ‘radical transparency and systematic collaboration’ policy, Agar says

James Agar, BHP’s Group Procurement Officer, has called for systematic collaboration and radical transparency within the mining sector when he addressed the main session at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC), in Australia, this morning.

Agar said the industry needs to reflect on the experience of COVID-19 and use it to strengthen the industry’s resilience from supply chain constraints.

“As a result of COVID, global demand vanished almost overnight,” he said. “What we learnt is that we can’t do it alone, we need to work collaborative and we need to be more transparent with our partners.”

Despite coming out the other side after the worst of COVID lockdowns, the global economic outlook has not improved, Agar mentioned.

“Labour markets are tight globally, with no sign of easing soon,” he said. “The energy crisis in Europe is profound and will continue to drive volatility in energy markets.”

As a result, BHP is pursuing a policy of “radical transparency and systematic collaboration” to ease pressures facing Australia’s largest miner.

Agar explained that this means building relationships with all stakeholders that support BHP’s operations, no matter the size of the partner.

“At BHP, we know we haven’t always been perfect in this regard,” he said.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC, which runs from November 2-4 in Sydney, Australia

IMARC to put spotlight on Indigenous participation in mining

The 2022 International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) is putting the spotlight on Indigenous participation within the sector through multiple partnerships, opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander industry leaders, and a panel discussion dedicated to First Nations people working in the field at the ICC Sydney from November 2 to 4.

Several influential leaders will discuss the importance of Indigenous participation across the supply chain including Florence Drummond, the CEO of Indigenous Women in Mining and Resources Australia (IWIMRA). The organisation has partnered with IMARC, working to raise the profile of First Nations women and contributing to best practice solutions ensuring the visibility, voice and quality participation of Indigenous women within the sector.

“We are so excited to have a formal partnership with IMARC and it’s only now that we are starting to recognise how truly impactful it will be,” Drummond says.

“From our history of compounded disadvantage and continued systemic challenges, it is understandable that many of our people are fatigued and frustrated at yet another mechanism for change. However, we have worked hard to agree on what shared value is in this context and to deliver this significant opportunity for all stakeholders.

“Based on trust, we plan for our delegates to be a part of the conversation and to ask the hard questions so that they can be the spark or the catalyst for change back in their home.”

Also on the panel is Chair of the Cooperative Research Centre for Transformation in Mining Economies’ (CRC TiME) First Nations Advisory Team, Jim Walker, who works with the mine closure and rehabilitation firm to ensure First Nations engagement, participation and outcomes are considered in their projects.

Walker says: “We’ve got to talk about how to involve Indigenous people, especially in the context of where to mine, how to mine and the impact of the mine as it moves through its estimated useful life. There’s a lot of Indigenous knowledge that can be utilised to mitigate the impact of mines, especially at the time of mine closures. Under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we are ‘rightsholders’ not merely ‘stakeholders’ and as such, engagement with us as Indigenous peoples becomes mandatory.”

Walker hopes IMARC will be not only an opportunity to collaborate and advance these conversations in Australia, but to have an impact on Indigenous communities around the world.

“If we can set the scene within Australia at IMARC then international delegates will take that message back and we may see more effective and impactful Indigenous engagement and participation across the global mining industry.”

In partnership with Whitehaven Coal, IMARC is also giving First Nations mining and resources leaders complimentary passes to attend the conference, providing opportunities to network, learn and be a part of the conversations at the Australian industry’s most influential mining event.

Indigenous executives are being encouraged to nominate themselves or can be nominated by colleagues here before the Monday, 17 October deadline to be in the running to receive one of 10 full access passes that include access to the IMARC gala dinner on November 3.

Whitehaven Coal’s Executive General Manager of Corporate, Government and Community Affairs, Michael van Maanen, is enormously proud of the initiative, saying: “We need to see more engagement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community. It’s such a central part of the Australian economy and as an industry, given our geographic distribution across the country, we would have to be better positioned than most other sectors to really form functional, rewarding partnerships with traditional owners.”

“Last year we spent A$8.73 million ($5.5 million) with 14 local Aboriginal-run businesses in the area and that’s really significant for us because we’re a big piece of the local economy, and through procurement we’re trying to ensure diversification and help Aboriginal businesses stand on their own two feet and have access to the various opportunities that can come from having a commercial relationship with Whitehaven,” van Mannen says.

Striving to enable equal opportunity, Whitehaven Coal has surpassed their initial Indigenous employment quotas with 20% of employees at its Maules Creek site and 11% of their total workforce identifying as Indigenous.

Walker adds: “There’s no reason you can’t exceed Indigenous employment quotas and it’s only to the betterment of companies when we talk about Indigenous engagement, especially when it comes to knowledge of the land and engagement in and around repurposing mine sites to benefit Indigenous people and Australia as a whole.”

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC

Mine closure under the spotlight at IMARC

Experts from environmental, economic and social science backgrounds are converging in Sydney, Australia, this November at the International Mining and Resources Conference & Expo (IMARC) to discuss opportunities created by the rehabilitation and repurposing of out-of-use mine sites, according to event organisers.

Due to necessary land disturbances, most mine sites cannot be returned to their natural state so owners must look at how to repurpose them to create long-term economic opportunities and reduce the burden on the environment.

Dr Guy Boggs, CEO of CRC TiME, says these sites can provide long-term benefits far beyond mine lifespans.

“Everybody is focused on energy transition at the moment and the need to decarbonise,” he says. “There are some really novel projects happening, looking at old mine pits and turning them into pumped hydropower sites.”

He offers up the example of the old Kidston gold mine, west of Townsville, Queensland, that is starting to produce electricity with pumped hydro and also incorporates a massive solar energy farm.

“The mines have strong electricity grids so you can make use of the infrastructure that was built during the mine,” he said.

The Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro project will produce 250 MW of renewable energy, providing enough electricity to power 143,000 homes.

CRC TiME says old mine sites across Australia are being used for a range of long-term projects that the public may not be aware of. These include environmental sanctuaries in WA’s Goldfields region and scientific innovations such as an underground physics lab within the Stawell Gold Mine.

The rate of new mine closures in Australia is expected to increase in the near future as many mines come to the end of their operating life. On average, a mine is expected to operate between 10 and 30 years with the resources boom beginning 30 years ago, according to experts.

IMARC speaker, Meg Kauthen, Sustainability Designer at Business for Development, believes Australia is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the closure of mine sites.

Kauthen says: “If we get infrastructure aligned to the community’s needs, it’s a fantastic investment beyond the life of the mine. We have been working in Africa where we have repurposed old mine infrastructure to help boost the agronomics of the region in partnership with the Cotton On Group.

“We suggest that Australian mines and mining communities need to approach the development of infrastructure in the same way.”

The economic opportunities presented to many regional communities facing mine closures will require a diversified workforce ranging from engineers, business and operations managers, accountants, hydrologists and beyond, experts say.

And, by diversifying the economic opportunities in regional Australia, it is hoped that more people will migrate from the capital cities help grow smaller communities.

This is just one of the many opportunities within the mining sector being explored at IMARC, which will run from November 2-4, 2022.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC 2022

Industry leaders to discuss mining’s sustainable future at IMARC

A greener future will require more mining than ever before, meaning collaboration and the adoption of new technologies across the industry’s entire value chain is no longer an option, but a necessity, organisers of the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) say.

This will be among the key challenges being addressed by industry leaders and innovators at the conference, due to take place on November 2-4, in Sydney, Australia.

According to key players in mining equipment, technology and services (METS) space, who will be speaking at the forum, there’s an urgent need for the industry to dramatically increase its uptake of sustainable technologies.

AspenTech Vice President and General Manager of Metals and Mining, Jeannette McGill, says not being at the cutting edge of available technology can be risky for mining companies.

“Technology is mandatory as it underwrites the future for mines, especially the ones mining lower-grade metals,” she said. “It’s these technologies that are going to allow us to mine and process more efficiently and allow us to have less impact on the environment.

“We can be more robust in how we push out the technologies into the market, but the constraints are around a skills base to absorb it, but also the adoption of technologies doesn’t come without a cost.”

Paul Berkovic, Chief Commercial Officer at I4 Mining by Rayven, agrees initially some technologies are hard to adopt but will eventually have an extremely significant impact on productivity, safety and in meeting demand for critical minerals vital to future energy solutions, including solar panels and wind farms.

“Competitively, it will be unavoidable, but there will also be huge environmental benefits to the adoption of this technology which consumers should understand because mining is not going anywhere,” Berkovic said. “It’s a really important part of our economy but how do we make it a more friendly part of the economy than it currently is perceived as?”

Ethically-conscious consumers are one of the major driving forces behind the mining sector’s transition, according to METS Ignited General Manager, Kylah Morrison, who says they are more influential on the industry than ever before thanks to the pressure they put on end-user manufacturers.

“You’re seeing a lot of those end users, which maybe had two or three steps before the raw materials got to them, starting to have to take responsibility for what those interim steps are and make them more secure, so we’re seeing miners have a more direct relationships with end users,” Morrison said.

“Fortunately, with data and computing power, we can offer that transparency. Apple, for example, could say to the consumer who’s purchasing an iPhone or an iPad: ‘we know for sure that we’re providing a carbon neutral or low carbon product’.”

With that community influence in mind, it’s also the responsibility of mining companies around the world to ensure they are engaging these technologies in a thoughtful way, rather than making reactionary decisions to engage in short-term solutions that may not be manageable in the future.

“The mining space has been at the vanguard of technology to a certain extent,” Berkovic said. “It’s had self-driving vehicles and all sorts for 20-30 years now, but what is happening now is a whole lot of these new novel technologies are coming out but they’re being adopted in a sort of ‘point and shoot’ manner,” Berkovic said.

IMARC Conference Director, Sherene Asnasyous, says with such a diverse cross section of the mining and resources industry attending, the event is a unique opportunity for collaboration to address evolving challenges such as this.

“IMARC will shine a spotlight on the role the METS sector is taking in driving the global energy transition, how it is bringing innovation to the exploration and development of new future-facing resources, and how it is helping balance the needs of the developed and the developing world, as well as local communities and environments, in the resource transition,” Asnasyous said.

“At its core, IMARC creates a global conversation and is all about the business of mining and resources, providing extensive opportunities for collaboration, knowledge sharing and cross-sector engagement to help drive a smarter, more productive industry of the future.”

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC, in Sydney, Australia

Australian skills shortage on the agenda at IMARC

Leaders from the resources sector are aiming to address the chronic and systemic skills shortage facing the Australian mining industry at November’s International Mining and Resources Conference & Expo (IMARC), in Sydney, Australia, the event organisers say.

The Federal Government’s jobs and skills summit will this week work towards addressing Australia’s overall labour shortage but solving that complex crisis within mining will require urgent industry-wide collaboration, according to the leaders.

Over 250,000 people are employed across the mining value chain, making it one of the largest employment industries in the country.

Australia leads the world in exploration and extraction and there is absolutely no reason why it cannot lead in new recruitment strategies as well, the leaders say.

Among those taking part in the IMARC conference is Debbie Smith, National Mining Leader of PWC Australia, who says there is a lot more governments could do to diversify towns like Gladstone, in Queensland, to make them more than just mining towns. This will help attract long-term residents to these areas who are looking to escape the expensive capital cities.

“COVID-19 has had a lot of people assessing work life balance and the importance of family,” Smith said. “We learnt how much can be done from people’s home and there is no reason why those homes cannot be in regional Australia.”

With businesses across Australia currently experiencing financial pressure associated with inflation, supply chain disruptions and the after-effects of border closures, radical reform is required.

Ian Wells, Chief Financial Officer at Fortescue Metals Group, who will also be speaking at IMARC, says due to the tight labour market in Australia, coupled with difficulties in accessing international workers, the industry as a whole is struggling to attract and retain workers.
Fortescue has invested heavily in local talent, including through the Billion Opportunities program which has invested over A$4 billion ($2.7 billion) into Aboriginal businesses since 2011.

Wells says “when the mining industry is strong, all Australians benefit”, with the Western Australian resources sector contributing A$100 billion directly to the national economy in financial year 2022-21.

“The mining sector is a great place to work with many opportunities, and, while our sector is committed to training and developing Australians to be part of the workforce of the future, current acute skills shortages means we must look beyond our borders for additional workers,” he said.

“As an industry, we must and can do more to build on our commitment to developing a diverse workforce that is reflective of society and to foster a workplace culture that truly embraces diversity and inclusiveness. We believe that diversity has been key to our success and we remain strongly committed to increasing female and Aboriginal employment across the business.”

IMARC’s Director of Conference Content & Strategy, Sherene Asnasyous, says the forum in November will provide a crucial platform for conversations about the next steps towards an essential increase in recruitment and retention across the industry.

“IMARC will allow global leaders and emerging game-changers from the entire mining value chain the unique opportunity to come together under one roof and tackle not only the skills shortage but other urgent challenges facing the industry right now including the energy transition, rising costs, social performance and diversity within the resources sector,” she said.

With over 450 speakers across six concurrent conferences covering global opportunities, industry collaboration, the energy transition, investment, innovation and more, IMARC is the most significant in-person gathering of Australian and international mining and resources representatives in almost three years, the organisers says. It will be held on November 2-4 at the Sydney International Convention Centre.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC

IMARC ready to welcome a record number of delegates

The International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) is set to host more than 7,500 attendees from over 100 countries at Sydney’s International Convention Centre from November 2-4, in what is likely to be a record in terms of the number of delegates.

The conference, the largest of its kind in Australia, will provide an opportunity for domestic and international industry leaders to engage, learn, network and most importantly, do business, while addressing the energy transition, rising costs, skills shortages, social performance and diversity within the resources sector, event organisers say.

The event will be held under the one roof across a massive 17,000 sq.m in the new Sydney location.

IMARC Managing Director, Anita Richards, said the response to this year’s event had been overwhelming.

“We’re welcoming a record number of delegates this year, representing 800 mining companies, and with IMARC exhibitors increasing by 85% since 2019, we’ve had to expand the expo floor by 40%,” she said. “The program will see over 450 speakers across six concurrent conferences covering global opportunities, industry collaboration, the energy transition, investment, innovation and more.”

A key theme this year is innovation and technology, with both local start-ups and leading global brands showcasing their latest products and services across automation, communication, safety and sustainability, to create better, faster, safer, and more profitable operations, the organisers say.

“This industry has seen so much change since the last in-person IMARC event, but this November global delegates will finally have the opportunity to connect face-to-face in Sydney, build relationships, forge partnerships and do business,” Richards said.

The mining industry is facing more challenges than ever before, including supply chain volatility, workforce shortages, the rising cost of business, the pressures of ESG, navigating the energy transition and growing social and investor expectations. IMARC, the organisers say, is a key forum that addresses these issues by gathering a wide cross-section of the mining value chain to share learnings, insights and help each other navigate pathways to a sustainable and prosperous future whether in exploration and investment, operational transformation, workforce growth or community engagement.

For example, IMARC’s Balance for Better, Next Gen programs and First Nations partnership initiatives aim to set the tone for a more diverse future for the sector, encouraging attendance from more Indigenous delegates, providing opportunities for young people, and championing equality, with women in leadership positions, community roles, and engineering a key focus across the program.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC 2022

ASX mining movers showing signs of green shoots

Before the Year of the Tiger roared into life on February 1, 2022, more than A$8 billion ($5.8 billion) was changing hands daily on the ASX as cheap debt, low cash rates and soaring stock markets bolstered investor confidence.

As of December 31, 2021, a whopping 240 companies listed on the ASX via Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), with the dollar value of those deals topping more than A$329.2 billion between Q1 (March quarter) 2021 and Q3 (September quarter) 2021, which is close six times more, year-on-year, and smashes the previous annual record of A$139 billion in 2007, the organisers of IMARC say.

Record mineral exploration spends saw a seasonally adjusted increase of 4.5% to A$925.9 million in Q3 2021, which was underpinned by a 15.8% rise in iron ore spending of A$174 million and a bullish outlook on battery metals.

For companies participating in Australia’s biggest mining conference, the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in 2022, seizing opportunities in the Year of Tiger is critical.

In 2022, more than 70 ASX companies will partake in IMARC including stock gainers such as Core Lithium.

Tyros burst onto the ASX

The ASX welcomed 240 companies to its ranks in 2021, which is the highest number of new companies since 2014. A staggering 60% of those stocks were linked to the mining and resources sector, and the money is flowing in, according to IMARC organisers.

In 2021, new ASX listings generated more than A$12 billion – the greatest number of listings in 14 years.

For EMR Capital Executive Chairman, Owen Hegarty OAM, 2021 was underpinned by strong commodity prices against a backdrop of cautious market sentiment and COVID-19 volatilities.

EMR Capital, which spun out copper player 29Metals (ASX: 29M) on July 2, 2021, was one of the most successful and biggest resource company floats of 2021. Additionally, 29Metals was one of the most successful listings in 2021, with a share price of A$3.09 (at the time of writing), which is up 50% from A$2.05/share.

“It was one of the biggest IPOs in Australia in about 10-15 years, but certainly not by design,” Hegarty said. “It got away very well. We raised quite a lot of money from the market and put a lot of stock out there. And we retained 45% of the company.

“We were able to use the funds in two directions, to return capital to our shareholders, and to inject good capital into 29M.

“Now, it’s in terrific shape to go forward in terms of its developments and growth trajectory. It has multiple projects in addition to lots of exploration that we wouldn’t have been able to fund through a private equity firm.”

Boom or bust for iron ore

Iron ore peaked at $233/t in May 2021, with majors like BHP and Rio Tinto shelling out record dividends. But, on December 12, 2021, the iron ore price tumbled to $103/t, as Beijing tightened its grip on monetary policy to shrink the output of its steel mills.

However, at the time of writing, iron prices recovered to $126/t, which proves that digging the key steel ingredient out of the ground is still a very profitable exercise.

Hegarty says Australia’s relationship to China as the producers and sellers of coking coal and iron ore, will clearly play a huge part in the future of the key export commodity.

“We’ve got this inflationary environment, you’ve got disruptions, and so on and so forth,” he said. “You’ve got China, which is very dependent on Australian iron ore. They’ve been disrupted by Mongolia and their local suppliers and so on.

“China will continue to increase its demand, and to reduce its dependency on Australia or any one source. So, that decreasing reliance on Australian iron ore and competitive pressure from other countries, means the current iron prices can last forever.

“Iron ore is a very solid commodity and has been a tremendous source of revenue for the country.”

The new commodities super cycle

While the jury might still be out on the short-term future of iron ore, Hegarty is optimistic about the promise of battery metals. Hegarty says despite all COVID-19’s challenges, the world has done quite well since the pandemic hit in 2020.

“When you look back two years ago, people were predicting half the world going to hell in a handbasket,” he said. “Here we go again, it’s another GFC. What’s it going to be, what’s the recovery going to be? Is it going to be the bell-shape, J shape, W shape, inverse square root shape? The price of everything went south.

“But the economy came back very strongly. The leading indicators indicated that this isn’t as bad as the GFC. You know the world has responded very quickly. The whole technological revolution has given us the ability to know what’s going on all the time everywhere.”

Part of the COVID-19 recovery stems from the optimism surrounding battery metals. Following many years in the doldrums, the tide seems to be turning in the electric vehicle market, as policies championing the use of clean energy and the production of electric vehicles is driving a surge in demand for a range of commodities.

Since January 2021, copper, nickel and rare earth metals more than doubled in price, while the lithium juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down, with the spot price at $37,000/t as of January 13.

The path to electric vehicle uptake and electrification point towards a new battery metals super cycle, which analysts predict could bring sustained growth opportunities for decades to come.

Hegarty is also bullish on battery metals and Australia’s potential to play a key role in the energy transition.

“For 2022, our outlook is that, as the world grows, there will always be more demand for those commodities, so you’re going to see that sort of multi-decade growth,” he said.

“Now, you know, on top of all that, and what you would usually describe as normal, is the whole transition towards decarbonisation and net zero.

“Whether you want to characterise it as greening the economy or responding to climate change, it will increase the demand for battery metals.

“Australia is going to dominate because its base resources are here, its people are here, and its base technologies are here.

“Fifty years ago, we were just starting some of these things, but now we have built a world-class competitive advantage.”

So, which battery metals are flying under the radar and should be front-of-mind for investors keen to catch the next wave?

Hegarty said graphite, manganese and vanadium are key commodities to watch in 2022.

“Those companies which have some form of application to electric vehicles or the energy transition, are the winners,” he said.

Golden opportunities

In December, Omicron sent another shockwave into the global economy, serving as a stark reminder that we are still at the mercy of COVID-19, despite the growth and optimism of 2021. So, it comes as no surprise that Hegarty gives gold pride of place as a safe haven asset for the savvy, diversified investor.

“Our view on gold is the same as it has been for 20 years and that is; it’s a commodity, it’s a currency, it’s a store of value, it’s a hedge against all sorts of things,” he said. “It’s got multiple demand factors on it.

“Silver will come and go because it’s also a precious metal, but cryptocurrency is also up and coming and they, too, will come and go as substitutes. But gold will always stand out really because it’s still precious, it’s still rare.”

2022: the year of opportunity

2022 is off to a precarious start domestically and globally. But, Hegarty says 2022 is shaping up to be a year of opportunity for investors and mining and resource companies.

“I think it’s just an amazing time now, accentuated by the fact that you’ve got this volatility and increased demand from net zero commitments,” he said.

“It’s a double whammy. It’s not just more commodities, it’s an impetus to make discoveries in Western Australia, Queensland, or parts of Africa and the Middle East and so on.

“We’re going to be looking for more commodities, and guess who’s got the best technical capabilities?

“We have the opportunity to put more and more resources into ensuring that we can do what we need to do to encourage people to continue joining the sector.

“Taking advantage, I suppose, is the point. Taking advantage of our competitive advantage.”

EMR Capital’s Owen Hegarty will be sharing further insights on new and emerging commodities at the upcoming International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) on October 17 to 19, 2022.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC