Running a mining multinational is challenging: navigating market volatility, orchestrating monumental infrastructure projects, maintaining environmental standards and working with local communities and governments are all part of the portfolio.
The job requires a specific set of strategic skills, technical know-how, business acumen and social responsibility. And now, with a demographic shift set to hit the industry as a wave of baby boomers makes plans for retirement, there’s a pressing need for a whole new strata of leadership to take the helm.
The urgency of the situation led industry leaders to approach the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business to establish a program geared to groom future leaders. The result is the Executive MBA in Strategic Mining Management, a program developed by Sauder with UBC’s Normal B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering in collaboration with the industry it will serve.
“When a group of professionals comes together and says ‘We need your help to plan for the future and improve the way we do business,’ that of course is a natural calling natural calling of academics,” says Sauder finance professor Ron Giammarino, a lead in the development of the EMBA’s curriculum.
“This program will give mining executives the time and space to think critically about their industry – its financial, operational and social implications – and what it needs to thrive.”
Business smarts for a volatile industry
According to Nolan Watson, President, CEO and Chairman of Sandstorm Gold, the program is essential as many mining executive are experts in mining or business, but not necessarily both. “You need to know the operational side of how mining works, which is incredibly complex. But because it’s such a volatile industry, you also need an in-depth knowledge of business strategy to survive during tough times. As we all know, the next downturn can be just around the corner.”
Watson, a BCom graduate from Sauder, is one of a number of industry leaders who served on an advisory board which supported the program’s development. In addition to his mining expertise, he contributed his perspective as a philanthropist who founded Nations Cry, a humanitarian organization focused on education in the developing world.
He says mining executives need to understand more than money and metals, noting the importance of embracing community development in the regions they work in.
“A true leader in the mining industry needs to understand how their company impacts the lives of people near their mines – not just to mitigate conflict, but to provide meaningful benefits to the community.”
Jocelyn Fraser, a doctoral student at the Keevil Institute developing the program’s Global Citizenship course content agrees and notes that community engagement is a vital component of the program.
“Social issues aren’t peripheral to mining, they’re core to the business,” says Fraser. “They need to be embedded as a strategic business imperative. Our global citizenship course is integrated throughout the program and will stress the importance of social and environmental impact and how these factors influence mining projects around the world.”
Keevil professor Scott Dunbar, the program’s academic lead from mining, says the program is unique in the way it integrates business and operational topics with social and environmental content, noting the approach has the potential to create a whole new breed of mining executives.
“Decision making in mining is often fragmented, with operational, finance and corporate social responsibility managers and consultants all operating in silos,” he says. “We’re creating leaders that can pull all of the necessary elements together to develop the comprehensive strategies the industry needs.”
An international approach
The expansive nature of the program will also apply to its global approach. International by design, the 21-month EMBA will allow professionals working around the globe to continue in their jobs as they learn from interactive online modules.
The class will come together throughout the program for four week-long residencies in leading global centres for mining and finance – Vancouver, London and Santiago. The residencies will feature local experts and professionals as guest speakers, and participants will get firsthand experience with world leading finance companies and mining operations.
“The interest in this program is coming from all parts of the globe and we expect that the initial class will bring together people from throughout the mining world,” says Rohan Hazelton, VP Strategy, Goldcorp Inc., the lead industry partner for the program’s development.
He says the global network that students will develop will be invaluable to their careers, and sees the program as an important way for ambitious workers in his company and others to prepare themselves to guide the sector into the future.
“Over the next five to 10 years, many mining executives will be retiring. The industry needs a new wave of leaders,” says Hazelton. “Graduates of this program will be set to take on the leadership roles the mining industry needs going forward.”