One of the side effects of blogging is the occasional email from somebody in the mining industry who is doing things I would never dream of and had no idea was being done. Here is one such email. I repeat an edited version below, for your information and as yet another example of the many and varied things that go into mining.
My name is Cliff Saunders and a colleague suggested I get in touch with you. She hinted that you would be an ‘interesting character’ to get to know and to tell about what I am up to. So again, pleased to meet you.
Briefly, I’m an engineer, industrial psychologist and entrepreneur. I spent the early part of my career as an “R&D geek” working in defense (UK) and telecoms (Canada). I escaped from the invisible, insidious corporate shackles of employment about 20 years ago and started a software and consulting company. In 2004 I had my first encounter and significant consulting engagement with ‘Mining” and ‘Miners’. My goodness what a cantankerous and thickheaded bunch, I thought. They’re so slow to entertain the possibility of new ideas, I thought some more. But dammit I like ‘em, I admitted, they remind me of me.
Let’s face it mining is a bit of a shock when you first get into it, there is just so much to learn and absorb. So many uncertainties. So much difficult science and so human. I mean Mining is intimately tied up in our very planet so it cannot help but be the lightening rod, the short circuit if you like, for almost every social issue you can think of.
It didn’t take me that long to realize that if I was going to leave a useful legacy, I could do no better than focusing on mining. I say ‘Mining’ but I also include ‘Exploration’. ‘Exploration’ is such a complex and difficult art, it reminds me of the R&D function in Telecoms.
A couple of years ago I was asked by the Canadian Safety Roundtable to facilitate a two day Visioning Workshop for them entitled “By 2017 – ZERO Fatalities and ZERO Lost Time Injuries”. We had all the biggies represented – Newmont, Barrick, Goldcorp, VALE, Sandvik, FNX and some others. The session went well. It was my job to stir up their thinking and get their creative juices flowing so I started off the session with a few ‘brain priming’ questions to help us get out of that box we know we’re all in.
Question 1 “How old is Mining?”
Answer: At least 35,000 years old. We know this from archaeology. Hmm, if mining has been around for 35,000 years, barring a major catastrophe, it will likely be around 35,000 years hence.
Question 2 “What Millennium are we in?”
Trick question. The Third Millennium, we just left the second millennium. I like this question because it makes our thinking space so big. Yes we are in the 21st Century but 10% of that is gone already, let’s think in term of a millennia.
Question 3 “What questions will Third Millennium miners be thinking about and asking themselves at the end of this millennium?”
Our workshop focus was safety, getting to zero fatalities and lost time injuries but the focus could really be anywhere in Mining.
When I answer this question my training and background tells me miners of the future will be thinking about the Mind, about the brain, about how our perceptions affect what we believe and how malleable or rigid those perceptions can be.
I’ve been a practitioner of brain science for a long time and I’ve followed the literature and developments of neuroplasticity or brain plasticity, the ability of the brain to rewire and change itself, for decades.
As an example of the potential of this new science I recently published in the Society of Economic Geologists Journal. It is called: “Discovery, Innovation, and Learning in the Mining Business – New Ways Forward for an Old Industry”.
Steve Enders, my co-author, was SVP Exploration for Newmont when I showed him some research done by ESSO that could be applied to Exploration. ESSO showed, in the late 80s, that a properly designed Junior Exploration Company could find “2.8 times the oil at half the cost” of their corporate peers, over a 500% improvement in performance. I am also attaching a copy of that paper.
Together with Steve’s team, we developed a Brain Reprogramming exercise that took his Newmont team from 4.5 M Oz booked per year to 10 M Oz/yr by reprogramming the team’s thinking and business beliefs, and we describe the approach in the SEG paper.
Brain Reprogramming is referred to as Accelerated Learning in the paper in deference to the sensibilities of some of the Big Tough Mining Guys I know.
As I’ve said, Brain Reprogramming is a relatively new field but has enormous potential for Mining and Exploration. Please find two blogs on the science here http://brainreprogramming.blogspot.com/ and here http://part2ofbrainreprogramming.blogspot.com/ .