The Asia Miner

OCT-DEC 2018

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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the asia miner • volume 15 • issue 4 19 WASTE TO ENERGY As concerns about water availability grow, mining companies must find more innovave ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle water different skills than those engaged in 'business as usual'. Similarly, changing corporate culture, collaboraঞng with compeঞtors or interacঞng with local communiঞes would be intricate, protracted undertakings requiring human effort not normally employed for daily operaঞons. Three topics in the sociology of IE relate parঞcularly to such challenges: trust; collaboraঞon and approaches to innovaঞon. While they aract considerable academic interest, they do also have a significant bearing on pracঞce. Innovaঞon occurs in myriad forms but from an IE perspecঞve, the most influenঞal determinant of success is a really competent, dedicated project champion. Such an incumbent needs the skills to perform many different tasks. She or he must enthusiasঞcally advocate the benefits of the project and have a good-humoured temperament for ceaseless, vigorous effort. PROJECT CHAMPIONS In the sociology of IE, almost every case study involving a project champion emphasises the indispensability of the role, as do a plethora of books on business management generally. The 'take-home' message is undoubtedly that any sort of innovaঞon, irrespecঞve of whether it is essenঞally technical or social, must have a champion to drive the project, but more crucially, to rescue it when it falls over. A project champion need not necessarily be an individual person. The role could be performed by a 'collecঞve body', such as a commiee or a corporaঞon. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of arrangement. A 'collecঞve body' might be more appropriate than an individual for large-scale, long-term projects, such as developing an eco-industrial park, which need conঞnuity of 'championship' beyond the capacity of an individual person. Conversely, changing corporate ethos, engaging with external stakeholders or disrupঞng 'business as usual' would likely be achieved best by an individual. Another observaঞon worth making is that it might be more saঞsfactory to engage appropriate capabiliঞes from outside a mining corporaঞon than to deploy an exisঞng employee, who may not have the necessary skills, aributes or inclinaঞon. ENDURING MANTRA: COLLABORATION An enduring mantra throughout theoreঞcal IE is collaboraঞon. The proposiঞon is that organisaঞons must collaborate to make the most beneficial use of resources and because modern developments are so large and so complicated that no organisaঞon can undertake them alone. Collaboraঞon in normal business pracঞce implies parঞes acঞng together, for example in a joint venture, to achieve mutual objecঞves. IE is typically not like this. The relaঞonships are more likely to be cooperaঞve or normal commercial trading than collaboraঞve. For example, a government regulaঞng authority would likely not collaborate on a project, as a co-contributor, say, of financial resources but might co-operate with the project champion on obtaining permits. Trial faciliঞes and other resources are typically obtained by contract or informal agreement with suppliers, which would not, as such, be regarded as collaboraঞon. Trust figures prominently in the literature as an essenঞal feature of IE relaঞonships. Although the term is seldom defined, it seems that most people have some, almost intuiঞve, idea of what it means. Trust connotes dependability – a sense of others being in accord with one's own perspecঞve on life and therefore be expected to act accordingly. Whatever the word implies in real life, it invariable relates to inter-personal relaঞonships, which are almost enঞrely conducted on the basis of mutual understanding rather than any sort of formal contract. A noঞon of trust, however, has emerged from case studies in which academics have construed trust to be a fundamental prerequisite for corporate parঞcipaঞon in IE projects. Consequently, trust has become another enduring mantra of IE – in theory. This asserঞon can be refuted on the grounds that, in pracঞce, corporaঞons rouঞnely do business on the basis of a formal, wrien agreement. A supply contract, for example, or less formally, a memorandum of understanding are normal, enঞrely acceptable subsঞtutes for trust in a business context. If Deloie's prognosis for mining is anywhere near accurate, social factors will be at least as influenঞal as any technical consideraঞons. There may come a ঞme during the evoluঞon of arঞficial intelligence when no humans need apply for a role. Unঞl then, the capacity to competently manage innovaঞon and corporate change will assuredly be a criঞcal factor. Of all the insights to emerge from the sociology of IE so far, the noঞon of a project champion seems unequivocally the most useful. REFERENCES: 1 Callam, C. 2018 Deloie Report – Mining Industry Trends and Challenges, 3 March 2018

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