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Australia’s Mining Hall of Fame (a lost opportunity — Oct 2017?)

I gave this presentation to the Mining 2000 Forum in Melbourne. At the time I was dealing with the establishment of a Mining Hall of Fame for the mining industry in Australia. This speech outlines the initial concept behind the project, as well as some of the challenges. 

Something about our mining industry reminds me of the elephant in the old Hindu proverb which says: “When an elephant is in trouble, even a frog will kick him”. Somehow we have let our industry be kicked around far more than this noble industry deserves.

This reflects badly on us because the verdict we allow to be pronounced upon the source of our livelihood, is the very verdict we pronounce upon our own life. Our  inability to effectively defend, to explain, and promote our industry on a broad enough front is, I feel, our industry’s most serious shortcoming.

For some time, I’ve been saying that our industry has plenty of management but not enough leadership and this helped me to recognise the leadership potential for the Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame project when they asked me to be chairman, about four years ago. This $21m project is not just about money, it’s about leadership and the creation of a showcase for an industry that is very much a young persons industry, highly dependent on leading-edge technologies (but the public don’t see us that way).

Our project will be telling the story of the relevance of our entire industry to the Australian public at large, and explaining what’s in it for them if they encourage more mining. Because our Mining Hall of Fame is a national project, we have strong leadership teams in each state, and as we visit the heads of many mining companies, it is giving us a remarkable insight into the leadership goals and perceptions of each of these companies.  It’s like gathering material for an interesting book.

Some of our industry CEO’s actually appear ashamed to be identified with our industry as they are currently confused about the globalization protestors and media pressures. If they aren’t proud of what they are doing, they should stop doing it, before they manage to confuse their own staff, not to mention their shareholders. However, the CEO’s and individuals who have made the effort to understand what the Mining Hall seeks to achieve are swinging in strongly behind the project and that’s why you can see concrete footings being poured, and walls going up on-site this week.

Each exhibit for the Mining Hall of Fame is being developed by a team of leading designers in partnership with researchers, museum consultants and major sponsors. The original idea for this project came from several of Kalgoorlie’s activist prospectors who recognised the need, and it was their enthusiasm that was picked up by the locals to the extent that campaign committees have been formed in all states so that it is truly a national project.

Earlier this morning, I attended the Victorian Committee meeting, chaired by John Barr in Brian Phillips’ office at MPI. This enthusiasm in turn, was picked up by both the Federal and WA State Government, resulting in the project’s selection as one of Australia’s most  significant Centenary of Federation projects.

Current status and progress

Tendering for the building has been completed and the builder is well advanced with construction and the exhibit designs are also well advanced. Even before we got our campaign under-way, so many individuals and companies quickly shared our vision and the general response now is that we are being thanked for creating this techno-showcase to help us explain what our careers and strivings are all about.

This select club of supporters, with voluntary membership, is bound together by enthusiasm for this rapidly evolving project. The fun and enjoyment is seeing it come together to meet these tight deadlines. Now there is one important date that I would like each of you to place in your diaries: Wednesday, October 24, 2001.

On that day, the Prime Minister of Australia will arrive in Kalgoorlie with the largest media entourage imaginable, all onboard the special Centenary train from Sydney. He will be there for one reason, to officially open the Mining Hall of Fame as part of the Centenary of Federation Celebrations.

The mining industry has long acknowledged the need to present to a wider audience the importance of mining to the well-being of the nation.  Engineers have bridges to show for their effort and architects have buildings, but there is no single focal point or image that depicts the contribution mining has made in the past and will make in the future to the economic well being of all Australians.

Mining is a strange industry in a way, because we go out there somewhere, discover a mine, which creates wealth for all Australians, then when we have finished, we cover it all up and pretend we have never been there at all. No wonder our industry is so widely misunderstood.

Perhaps if we adopt more projects like our Mining Hall, our heritage and technical expertise will be easier to explain.  We need to ensure that this knowledge is conveyed to the broader community and to the next generation.

The Mining Hall of Fame will pay tribute to the past and make an investment in the future as an interactive educational tool designed to demonstrate to all Australians the outstanding contribution that mining has and is making to our great nation.  This is a national project and all states and territories of the past and present will be highlighted, alongside demonstrations of the latest technological developments.

We will feature the past, to acknowledge that by climbing onto the shoulders of our pioneers, we have been given the ability to see the future more clearly. And we will feature that future, full of vital, personal skills, matched with capital and technology.

It is expected that at least 200,000 visitors will tour the complex each year and a million more will make a virtual visit to the centre through our website. They will be accessing archives, educational material and the supporters of the project. Travelling exhibitions will be assembled on the site for display at conference venues and educational centres around Australia. The educational aspect is a key feature and re-enforces the desperate need to re-focus the current image of our mining professionals.

It has worried me for some time that our industry projects very much as an old-economy, older-person industry, and if you don’t feel that’s fair have a look at the various annual reports which proudly feature upfront, photos of board members, mainly old codgers like me. Mining and exploration is a young person’s industry, but we don’t project that image.

I know that if at Croesus Mining, we extract the board’s age, we are left with an average age of around 25. Our Mining Hall project will help re-focus on young people and we are already working very closely with the WA Chamber of Minerals & Energy.

This year, in WA alone 30,000 students, teachers and parents have enrolled for these mining familiarisation courses and we expect 6,000 to go through our “Mining Hall” facility (the figure was 5,500 last year), and we haven’t even completed the facilities yet.  They are simply visiting the North End Heritage Mining precinct, which is the 8 hectare setting for our Mining Hall project that has been generously donated by Homestake and Normandy to kick start our project.

The Education Department has already provided an upgraded Goldfields Camp School Dormitory with onsite catering facility and The Chamber is maintaining a full-time staff member in Kalgoorlie, to co-ordinate this rapidly growing program. Why is the Education Department doing so much to assist us?   It’s because they see us as an independent organisation, one or two steps removed from the industry itself.

There are two objectives for this educational program:

  1. To give young people and their teachers, information and hands-on experience, leading to a better understanding of the significance of our industry to all Australians.
  2. To encourage some of the best and brightest of them to seek career opportunities within our industry.

Our Mining Hall project will continue the good work of State Chambers and AMEC and of AusIMM by re-enforcing the positive images of our industry — such as the skills, courage, youth and people — and together we can enhance the image of today’s mining professionals.

This project is not so much about money or about public relations, it is essentially about leadership. It is a leadership project that we would like you all to adopt, to identify with, to nurture and to use us to the hilt. Now how specifically can each of you help as we move into the vital phase of fundraising, at this time of tight deadlines?

  1. Physical and financial support for the broad range of sponsorships available, either individually or as your company. Perhaps your support by influencing your board to support the project. Remember, there is 100 per cent tax deductibility and there is full public recognition of such assistance.  Our new website will be listing all supporters/donors with hot-links to their own websites.
  2. You can help with update articles in your staff magazines, through until official opening, and thereafter.
  3. Support for your State Fundraising Chairman and Committees.
  4. Personal assistance with approaches to some of the 2400 people already on our database.

It’s a big industry and we are experiencing difficulty covering all these people in such a limited time. Either visit us at our booth or obtain your various state contacts from our website by clicking on Our Team. Your offer of assistance will be most welcome to our large team of volunteers.

Now to conclude, in assisting with our project, please remember the wise words of Winston Churchill who put it this way:

“We make a living by what we get, but, we make a life by what we give”.








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