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Paul Howard
Paul Howard

Managing Partner

Diggers and Dealers 2021 reveals mining sector trends and challenges

Gerard Daniels representatives recently attended the 30th annual Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie. Despite travel and border restrictions this year’s event still attracted more than 2500 delegates, securing its ranking as the most widely attended event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.


Having attended Diggers and Dealers for 14 consecutive years, Paul Howard (a Partner at Gerard Daniels) reports that sentiment across the sector remains positive. “With a supercycle underway it’s a great time to be working in the mining sector,” says Paul. “A lot of commodities are enjoying positive cycles, prices and revenue are strong and whether businesses are exploring or producing product everyone seems to be keeping very busy right now, including Gerard Daniels.”

Following on from this significant industry event, here Paul shares his thoughts and insights around emerging mining leadership trends and challenges.

Leadership Challenges

Mining during a pandemic

Despite the mining sector faring relatively well during the current pandemic, COVID remains an influence and an important talking point at leadership level. But in reflecting on Diggers and Dealers and the events of last 18 months, Paul is quick to acknowledge the efforts and resilience of the mining sector – particularly in Western Australia.

“The leadership in this sector has done a tremendous job in setting up the right systems and processes to manage the workforce and prevent the spread of infection,” Paul reflects. “These efforts have helped to keep the mining workforce safe, to keep COVID out of these economically important workplaces, and allowed the mining sector to continue moving forward into the supercycle that we are now experiencing.”

Workforce pressures

Getting enough of the right people, at the right time is another current leadership challenge for the mining sector. “It’s all about people right now,” says Paul. “Leaders are already experiencing considerable pressure to source talent and to establish new project teams, and this will continue to get tougher as time goes on and workforce competition grows.”

Leadership trends

Evolving brands to attract new talent

Workforce pressures during the supercycle are pushing some mining sector organisations to rethink the positioning of their brand to attract new talent. “These companies are beginning to leverage their brand really well to appeal to new talent,” says Paul. ESG is another growing influence within the sector. “These principles are increasingly being used to make mining brands more appealing to a younger prospective workforce,” Paul continues.

Promoting fresh leadership talent

The influx of quality first time CEOs – some of whom Gerard Daniels has helped to appoint – is another interesting observation that Paul makes following Diggers and Dealers. “It’s refreshing to see strong talent coming into and moving up through mining,” Paul says. “By looking further afield and more broadly for leadership talent these companies are creating opportunities for people to step up. The strong demand for new leadership talent is also keeping our executive search team exceptionally busy.”

Paul Howard
By looking further afield and more broadly for leadership talent these companies are creating opportunities for people to step up.
Paul Howard- Managing Partner

New and emerging roles


According to Paul some of the senior marketing roles in mining are now evolving to support the repositioning of mining sector brands. “We’re starting to see a lot more chief marketing officer roles, with senior marketing executives moving onto the executive team and in some cases onto the board,” says Paul. “As well as supporting the marketing of core commodities marketing leaders must now take responsibility for positioning brands to appeal to the right type of incoming talent too, making these roles even more complex, diverse and senior in their influence.”


As the ESG agenda gathers pace Paul believes new sustainability leadership roles will continue to emerge. “Sustainability is now a primary conversation not a secondary one, so naturally there will be growing leadership opportunities in this space,” says Paul. “This is particularly true for the listed mining corporates that face growing pressure from investors and financiers to have strong sustainability platforms and reporting processes in place.”

Supporting mining sector boards

Remuneration and retention strategies

In light of the current workforce pressures Paul believes mining sector boards remain focused on developing strategies to keep people – and to make talent retention about more than just money. “Boards want to create a culture where people are happy, engaged and retained, despite growing pressure to go elsewhere,” he says. “These strategies must apply at board level and across entire organisations.”


Clients are increasingly turning to Gerard Daniels for guidance around board composition and understanding the type of talent they need to achieve better board diversity. “Board diversity has finally moved on beyond gender,” says Paul. “Boards are now striving to be more diverse in terms of skills and cultural background, and are genuinely focused on bringing more diverse thinking and perspective to the table,” he continues. “While this may create recruitment challenges its pleasing to see that these are conversations boards are very willing to have.”

Gerard Daniels understands the need for the mining sector to build a strong, flexible and skilled workforce to meet the needs of the market, today and tomorrow. Reach out to discuss your executive search and board consulting needs or to find out more about our experienced team.

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