KCGM’s move 30 years in the making

Super Pit owner Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM) is leading the way in gender equality in the mining industry as one of its highest female employers. 

The miner is taking big steps to address the issue, with its gender ratio sitting at 28 per cent compared to the national average of 13.7 per cent in 2016, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

Most recently, the miner appointed the first female to its General Manager position, overseeing more than 1000 employees and millions in reserves.

The move is nearly 30 years in the making, but is a positive step forward for addressing gender imbalance in the industry.

The woman at the helm is Cecile Thaxter, who has stepped into the role fresh off being the first woman as General Manager at Newmont Mining’s Phoenix/Lone Tree mine in Nevada.

KCGM is a joint venture between the Australian arm of Newmont and Barrick Gold.

A true champion of change, Ms Thaxter has been busy shaking up the status quo of mining management across continents.

While individually both roles are great achievements, Ms Thaxter told National Mining Chronicle she was more excited for what it meant for the industry.

“I see it as just the beginning and I look forward to otherswho will follow,” she said. 

“It’s not so much about the first, but the second and third and those that come after that.”

Talk about gender imbalance across Australia’s mining industry heated up over recent years, with men dominating the industry at 86.3 per cent in 2016, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

“Gender diversity in the industry is definitely something that has been focused on more in the last couple of years across the sector,” Ms Thaxter said.

"The industry is really working hard to attract more females into the field.”

Ms Thaxter’s official move to Kalgoorlie marked just her second time in the iconic mining town.

She brings with her plenty of international experience and sees similarities between the mining industries in Nevada and Western Australia.

“I think there are more similarities than differences – miners have a lot of pride in what they do and so I think you see that everywhere you go,” she said.

“We focus on the same things here as we do in the US. Overall, we are both trying to grow our margins and resources.”

When questioned on the direction ahead for KCGM and her role as General Manager, Ms Thaxter didn’t deny there would be challenges.

“We do have our challenges, like keeping our people safe, reducing costs to offset inflation and other demands and managing projects and risks,” she said.

“But if you see a mine without challenges, it’s probably closed and rehabilitated.”

So what is the future for the iconic Kalgoorlie Super Pit gold mine as it reaches its 30th year of operations in 2019?

“Over the last couple of years we have really embarked on reducing unit costs in the aftermath of the mining boom,” Ms Thaxter said.

“I think there is still some way to go to build on our explorations and our mine site with future extensions or development.”

Instilling passion and motivation in the workforce was an overriding aim for Ms Thaxter when discussing the future direction of KCGM’s business and culture.

“We really need the entire workforce being aligned and working together towards achieving the same vision and to get people really understanding how what they do impacts the overall business,” she said.

“It can’t just be the General Manager and senior leadership team taking ownership.

“If we don’t have the right people in the roles then it is really difficult to move the business forward.”

Despite operating in a notoriously cyclical environment with a growing focus on cost cutting, Ms Thaxter said the operation had plenty to look forward to.

“KCGM has a lot of underlying strengths – it’s an iconic operation and I think it always will be,” she said.

“I think the future is bright here as far as reducing costs and growth are concerned,” she said.

As for the state’s gold industry, Ms Thaxter said it was a great platform to be operating in.

“I think WA’s strengths have always been its experience and longevity in the industry. It has built a strong reputation as being a mining-friendly state,” she said.

“That being said, we are still susceptible to mining cycles and costs, so we all need to make sure we are protecting our margins and our reputation so that WA continues to be attractive for investment.”

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