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Risky Business: The Career Dangers Faced by Mine Managers

Ambitious mine managers are concerned about many risks in the day-to-day running of their mine. Some of these risks can and have ended many a promising career. Falling foul of health and safety, production-related output, cost and efficiency targets, social license (employee engagement, stakeholder communication, attracting and retaining critical skills), or regulatory compliance can be career-ending. Dealing with these issues takes up significant time and mental effort. As a result, managers launch many initiatives to address these risks, often with limited success.

According to Boston Consulting (see comments for link), the average number of executive KPIs has increased from 7 in 1950 to 25-40 today (see comments for link). Many of these KPIs are oppositional; more of one results in less of the others. Efforts to deal with the risks mentioned, combined with the imperative to satisfy more KPIs, make mine managers some of the busiest people we deal with. Burnout is thus another issue mine managers face.

The flow chart shows how these issues interact.

But what if these issues have a COMMON CAUSE? That would be great news because it would provide us with a LEVERAGE POINT from which we could impact most of these issues (symptoms) with the least effort. The leverage point in the flow chart is the stop-start flow image, which we discussed in a previous post

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

Summary of flow chart:

Making money is a primary concern for shareholders, and mine management is responsible for cost minimization and meeting budget targets. KPIs are rolled out to increase efficiency, and advancements in technology have made it easier to obtain KPI and cost data. However, this has also led to managers focusing more on departmental performance, fragmenting their understanding of the overall process and negatively impacting production flow.

Trying to optimize all parts of the system causes stop-start production flow, output reduces, and cost per unit increases. In addition, as priorities constantly shift, firefighting becomes inevitable, and workers may struggle to see the impact of their efforts, resulting in reduced engagement.

Work becomes difficult, and managerial attention gets overloaded and the risk of burnout increases.

These challenges make it harder to attract and retain critical skills and underrepresented groups in the mining industry. Additionally, the safety risks increase and managers have less time to build relationships with stakeholders or ensure regulatory compliance. In this environment, management is often driven to push improvement efforts harder, further exacerbating the problems they face.

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