Finance director and head of global outreach
Women in Mining UK
Melinda Moore is chief commercial officer of Norwegian iron ore miner Sydvaranger, listed equity research analyst for Empire Energy in Australia, and has other consulting works on the go as part of her company, CleanUp Commodities, alongside her roles at Women in Mining (WIM) UK. She previously held strategic marketing roles at ICBC Standard Bank and BHP. Melinda gained an important career break in China in the early 2000s just as the country began experiencing its massive economic surge, becoming known as China's "woman of steel" for her work in that industry. She was the first to predict China would become the world's largest steel exporter and the first woman to trade iron ore financial instruments.
Is there a breakthrough moment or big achievement from your career that you're especially proud of?
I was working for BHP, in Shanghai and then later in Singapore, just ahead of the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008. We were looking at raw materials in the steel sector, and as the GFC struck, we were able to advise company management that despite the fact that there was going to be a significant hit to demand, they didn't need to turn off production or furlough workers.
BHP was the only major not to turn off. In one of our competitors' cases, they sacked 5,000 workers. They stopped production. It took them 18 months to get back to full production. It cost them millions and millions of dollars in that process, whereas BHP kept going. It kept paying its staff, supplying its customers, earning revenues and paying tax dollars to the Australian population. A huge strategic win for the company and just a fabulous gift to see the personal contributions and the impact that you can make and really move the dial in mining.
Thinking about how mining has evolved in terms of gender diversity, how would you grade the industry on its performance?
I'm going to be relatively generous and say a B plus. I think the industry actually is seeing enormous improvements. What I really admire about mining is – and we don't celebrate it enough – is its ability to adapt and to change. It is aiming to be a much more modern and inclusive sector. We're seeing recruitment policies and practices changing. We're seeing better planning around succession policies and much better mentoring in place for everybody.
Another trend is that now we're seeing senior management being given unconscious bias training so that they can be much more aware of hiring practices and diversity metrics and that makes sure that we're all better attuned to hiring a much greater diversity of individuals and taking active steps to improve workplace cultures.
Since you started at WIM UK in 2018, what would you say has been the organization's greatest achievement?
As head of global outreach, I project managed the 2018 edition of the 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining. It's a massive project, but a hugely wonderful volunteer role. And by the way, a shout out to all the WIM volunteers from around the world for all their time and sacrifices to help with the WIM 100 project.
That was our most successful publication to date, we had over 640 nominations from all over the world. It was the first time that we celebrated with a special lunch event and we had women from the WIM 100 flying in from all over the world to meet each other. Super soulful and so powerful to witness the beginnings of potentially lifelong industry connections being made. Stories being exchanged, career is being celebrated... seeing that these women had just stretched themselves above and beyond to really help the industry move the dial at large. And pride that the industry wanted to celebrate the women as well.
And we actually ended up in the 2018 edition, choosing 101 women. We had an extra one. We'd chosen a woman from South Africa, a university professor emeritus, Dee Bradshaw, a fantastically well published minerals processing engineer. We received an e-mail back saying, sorry, she's dead. She died between the point where she was nominated and the point when she was being chosen. But the heartwarming moment was the fact that she had cancer, and either because of it or just in spite of that, she continued to give back. On her deathbed, she set up a student scholarship program to ensure that those that were studying mineral processing continued to have access to bursaries to enable them to travel the world to hone their craft. Those sorts of things are the true achievements, they keep me driving hard for women in mining.
In your role in global outreach at WIM, have you picked up on any helpful government policies or industry good practice from other countries?
That's a fantastic question because we need to fix the structures before we can see widespread change. The World Bank has identified 104 economies where labor laws are to this day restricting women from working on the same footing as men. Unsurprisingly, many of these relate to mining and transportation of minerals.
There are some great examples of mining companies helping women to lobby hard. In Kazakhstan, KAZ Minerals is lobbying for regulatory changes [to rules] that are restricting some of their operating roles that are only for males at this stage. And as it hats off to them, their rate of women [employees in roles where females are not prohibited by law] sits at 39%.
In Mali, we're seeing Resolute Mining's John Welborn and his team keenly pushing for similar actions in order to get their trained professional female engineering staff working underground, because right now working underground in Mali is illegal as a female.
We're also seeing companies like St Barbara... They began in 2007, their journey towards lifting representation by females as well as moving towards nil pay gap. And they've reduced that gap down from from 43% in 2007 to, I think it's 15% today. They are still the only miner in Australia to be awarded employer of choice for gender equality, which is, again, fantastic.
In PNG, they have a gender smart program where they look at the risks and hazards for women to work in their mine workplace. They do annual audits to check whether women are safe and happy.
I think these sorts of examples really demonstrate that the industry is well aware of the issues and challenges that women are facing and [it is] listening, and also has the business acumen to know that women in the workforce make an active contribution. It's good business.
Interview by Emma Slawinski