Dec '10/Jan '11

Supply Side

Marketers to mining need to know their clients’ challenges

By Jon Baird

Marketers should always seek to cater to the needs of their clients. Thus, mining suppliers designing marketing tools such as brochures, web sites or other communications materials need to know how their clients view the challenges facing their companies in order to propose optimum solutions.

Early in 2010, Mincom ( published the findings of a study designed to gauge the perceptions of key stakeholders in the mining industry. The study polled top-level executives in over 100 leading North American mining companies asking what were the most pressing challenges facing their enterprises.

The executives were given seven challenges and asked to identify their top three. The challenges offered were: ensuring workplace safety; improving performance and operational effectiveness; managing capital projects; recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce; addressing environmental concerns; mergers and acquisitions; and risk associated with exploration programs.

Following are the top challenges as seen by the mining company executives.

Ensuring workplace safety: Some 71 per cent of respondents identified ensuring workplace safety as one of their top challenges. Two areas of particular importance to safety are reliable assets and high-quality work practices. Reliability of machinery is critical because of mining’s remote, often dangerous, work situations and the potentially catastrophic nature of equipment failures.

As for work practices, high-quality work is typically safe work. Thus, empowered workers not only safeguard themselves; they prolong the life of expensive assets, boost productivity and protect margins by reducing the cost of fines, insurance, stoppages and litigation.

Improving performance and operational effectiveness (67 per cent): The importance of this issue is not surprising, since it is critical for the viability and well-being of a mining corporation, particularly in periods of low commodity prices. While technical solutions already exist to make improvements in efficiency, the study proposes that real progress may be hampered by “lack of visibility into the overall process” and that integrated IT systems are necessary “to deliver unified information across multiple facilities.”

Managing capital projects (46 per cent): Large-scale capital projects are an important part of the mining industry. Management of these needs to be supported by integrated systems that enable complete visibility and streamlined management.

Recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce (38 per cent): This issue has an impact on the whole mining industry as older, skilled workers retire and younger workers with the necessary training are increasingly difficult to find. Automation and design of products and technologies that are easier to use are seen to be approaches to this challenge.

Addressing environmental concerns (37 per cent): In the last few years, the mining industry has become more and more aware of the need to gain a social license to operate. This entails each company setting a high standard of corporate social responsibility not only to the natural environment, but also to communities that are key stakeholders.

Mergers and acquisitions (16 per cent) and risk associated with exploration (12 per cent) were rated in importance far behind the above challenges, although even these needs could provide good markets for suppliers.

Jon Baird
Jon Baird, managing director of CAMESE and the immediate past president of PDAC, is interested in collective approaches to enhancing the Canadian brand in the world of mining.

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