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David Morrison at Diggers & Dealers.

Miners need to talk to us, ‘not just among themselves’

“There’s no putting the lid back on Pandora’s Box. It doesn’t work like that.”

Former Australian Army chief David Morrison AO has given some frank but important advice at the Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, telling miners they need to tell their stories publicly but also be prepared to deal with difficult issues in the same way.

Morrison, who served as Chief of Army from 2011 to 2015, told Cannings Purple Special Counsel David Paterson that his own experience had taught him about the importance of finding external audiences.

“No one loves the army more than me and I talk about it all the time. Through 37 years of service, we always talked about ourselves,” Morrison reflected.

“But we talked about ourselves almost exclusively to ourselves. It doesn’t matter as much what I think about the army as what you think about the army. It’s the same with the mining industry.

“The mining industry is fundamentally important to this country and has delivered much of the prosperity we enjoy today. [But] you can’t just talk to yourselves about what you’re doing and how you see your future.

“You’ve actually got to have that conversation with people like me outside of the mining industry and more particularly my sons and their children…or the young women who are at school and don’t currently see themselves as part of the mining industry’s future.

“None of the stories that you are talking to yourselves actually have any resonance for them.”

But the flip side to that equation means being equally up front about tackling issues affecting individual companies and the industry as a whole.

Morrison’s time in charge of the army coincided with the so-called Jedi Council sex scandal and having to confront the problem publicly had taught him important lessons.

“The real change started happening when we started talking to you, the citizens we were actually charged to protect under the constitution, about how we were tackling some of our issues,” Morrison recalled.

“Once you start to air the issues, there’s no going back. There’s no putting the lid back on Pandora’s Box. It doesn’t work like that.”

Morrison’s views mirror those of Cannings Purple Managing Director Warrick Hazeldine, who wrote in the lead-up to Diggers & Dealers in 2018 that the mining industry needed to tell its story better.

As mining, like many sectors, battled loss of trust, a potential skills shortage and increased activism, Hazeldine wrote of a need to educate the wider public about the value resources delivered to Australia and its economy.

In particular, there needed to be an awareness among younger generations.

“How many metro school children have visited a mine site?” Hazeldine asked.

“There’s opportunity for partnerships within the travel and tourism industry to bring these places to life for our kids.

“The gold sector, for example, has one of the best stories to tell about environmental responsibility and social contributions to our life in WA – we need to tell our children those stories.”

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard attracted headlines on Monday with a Diggers & Dealers keynote speech in which he suggested the mining industry’s contributions to the country and society risked being lost against a backdrop of activism.

More than 2000 attendees have headed to the heart of the Goldfields to hear from more than 60 presenters at Diggers & Dealers. High-profile attractions still to present include Gold Road Resources, AngloGold Ashanti, Lynas Corporation and Gold Fields Australia.

Cannings Purple’s market-leading Investor Relations team is on the ground in Kalgoorlie-Boulder for the full three days of Diggers & Dealers.

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