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CMMI Conference
Cairns, Australia, 27-28 May 2002

The CMMI is the Council of Mining and Metallurgical Institutions based at the IMM in London. Every four years a Conference and Council meeting is held in a host country and Executive and Council meetings are held in between.

In 2002, the AusIMM hosted a conference and council meeting in Cairns, Australia.

At the CMMI Council meeting in Cairns it was agreed that the current structures and processes of the CMMI were not appropriate to meet the current and future needs of the professionals in the Minerals Industry and their representative institutions. It was agreed to meet by virtual means on an as needs basis and the formal structures and processes were no longer needed at an international level.

The Cairns Conference ran under the themes International Codes, Technology and Sustainability for the Minerals Industry. The event featured joint plenary and combined sessions for all delegates and separate sessions in the three topic areas. Each of the themes provided excellent papers and subsequent discussion among the delegates. Each theme is worthy of a dedicated conference. The Conference Proceedings are available through AusIMM at www.ausimm.com.au.

In his opening address, Leigh Clifford Chief Executive of Rio Tinto, talked about the loss of public trust in the industry. In particular, he mentioned the following challenges confronting the international industry: environmental disturbance and the historical legacy in some locations; need for benefits to flow to those most affected by mining; reducing employment; neglect of indigenous communities and the adverse effect of operations which avoid good practice. This address, following on from the GMI Conference in Toronto, set the scene for the CMMI event.

The Codes section of the conference confirmed that self-regulatory industry codes of practice that are supported by industry bodies and accepted by investment regulators are desirable and effective. Australias JORC Code is an excellent example of the success of this model, and the Code has been used as a template for similar resource/reserve reporting standards in other countries. Presentations were given on the resource/reserve reporting standards in Canada and South Africa, and other papers discussed specific aspects of these standards, such as reporting of Exploration Results and the relationship to accounting standards. There were also valuable papers on industry standards in other areas, such as Australias VALMIN Code, and BHP Billitons Health, Safety, Environment and Community Management Standard, although most of the Reporting Stream of the conference concentrated on standards for reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Reserves.

Several papers discussed the development of international resourced/reserve reporting standards, noting in particular the success of the Combined Reserves International Reporting Standards Committee (CRIRSCO) in encouraging the development of standard international definitions for resources and reserves and in achieving the cooperation of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe through the adoption of these definitions into its Framework Classification.

There was considerable debate on the difficulties currently faced in the USA, with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) not recognising Mineral Resources as a reporting term or national industry codes such as the JORC Code and similar standards in other countries, and the challenges this presents for multi-listed companies such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. The USA is the largest capital market in the world, so this restriction is of considerable concern and a potential threat to the development of true international standards.

The Technology section of the Conference presented a powerful case, and in some respects a reminder, that many of the solutions to the challenges faced by the mining industry will come from advances in technology. The keynote paper in this area identified areas for advancement in mineral processing, including reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, dry processing and by-product utilisation.

The subsequent papers explored technical advances associated with mining activity. Three papers considered geophysical, radar and seismic methods for gaining information on characteristics of the rock mass. A second theme was concerned with the use of road headers in hard rock mining and advances in shaft sinking. A third set of papers dealt with improved asset utilisation through automation and the effective use of machine and production data.

The Sustainability section of CMMI followed conveniently on the Toronto GMI event. As befits the topic of sustainability, a diversity of papers was presented spanning the following: a perspective from the oil industry, issues associated with communities and indigenous people, a perspective from NGOs and some valuable practical experience from Australia and the Arctic regions of Canada.

There is still a long was to go to make sustainable development a core business activity, or to put it another way, to establish the business case for sustainable development at all levels of an organisation. There is a continuing need for the industry to engage more widely with groups external to the industry and some believe that partnerships with NGOs present powerful opportunities. Broader education at all levels is part of the picture, with this beginning at undergraduate level for future professionals.

Prof. Don McKee, The University of Queensland, Australia. Email: D.McKee@mailbox.uq.edu.au




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