One of Australian mining’s leading thinkers, who has developed strategies for most of the major mining companies over the past 15 years, believes the real challenge facing Western Australia’s mining sector is finding the space and volition to plan and execute for the longer term within the heavy pressures of cycles and public company structures. 

Dr Graeme Stanway is one of the co-founders of consulting firm VCI, which in 2007 successfully developed a strategic transformation for a major mining company. The project led to significant investment in technology and kicked off much of the automation and remote operations boom in the Pilbara in the late 2000s. 

He will be one of the keynote speakers at the WA Mining Conference to be held at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre on October 15 and 16 this year and will be looking at where the WA mining industry will be heading by 2030 and what big factors will shape the direction. 

Speaking ahead of the conference, Dr Stanway discussed some of the approaches mining businesses needed to consider when looking to the future. 

“It’s the classic strategy process: understand the external environment, develop a competitive advantage, design your business around that competitive advantage while maintaining the capability to pivot as and when required,” he said. 

Dr Stanway also suggested companies needed to consider the external ecosystem, competitive advantage and their own organisational design. 

He co-founded research group State of Play in 2012 to address a lack of available research on innovation and strategy in mining and other capital intensive industries. 

“Most literature was either focusing on fast-moving consumer industries or was at too high a level to be practical for mining leaders,” he said. 

“So we decided to develop our own research platform and have become a leading voice on strategy and innovation in mining, running the world’s largest survey of its kind and producing much sought-after reports aimed at helping decision-makers understand the environment within which they operate.” 

Dr Stanway believes growth for the WA industry in the next 10 years will come about due to a number of factors. 

“WA is blessed with resources, skills and an operating environment that is pretty much unparalleled globally,” he said. 

“It has a major critical mass of start-up mining companies, which is a centre for financial and entrepreneurial infrastructure Australia wide and globally. 

“It also has a wide range of major positions in commodities and energy sources – gold, lithium, nickel, iron ore, tantalum, bauxite, gas and a well-skilled and flexible workforce.” 

According to Dr Stanway, the biggest threat to WA will come from complacency and having its own version of the “Dutch disease”, a term that refers to the adverse effects through real exchange rate appreciation that a boom can have on various export and import-competing industries. 

“Why is it with all the advantages WA has, is it led by Queensland in the METS sector?” Dr Stanway asked. 

“The technology sector and associated services industry could be much bigger in WA and insulate the economy against the worst impacts of cyclicality. 

“The challenge is because we are so blessed with commodities we tend to face less of a pressing need to develop associated industries, which is not the case in states such as Queensland and South Australia. 

“The government and industry need to come together here.” 

Dr Stanway also suggested inaction on the opportunities presented by Asia and on developing skills and capacity to deliver on the enormous opportunity, capital and exploration business models jeopardised advancement. 

The two-day conference will feature an impressive lineup of speakers including mining decision-makers, technology experts and industry leaders. 

Alongside the conference will be a targeted supplier showcase where delegates can source the latest products and services as well as a networking event on the first night. 

Tickets to the WA Mining Conference are now available and can be purchased by visiting www.waminingexpo.com.au.