Rania Spooner, “Rebranding the mining industry,” The Sydney Morning Herald Online, November 15, 2011.
The mining industry has a branding problem which must be changed or the campaign against the MRRT is a lost cause, says an industry stalwart and recent Australian Mining Hall of Fame inductee.
West Australian Ron Manners is a fourth-generation miner and undertook his studies in the hallowed halls of the Kalgoorlie School of Mines in the 1950s.
He attributes his tech savviness to his not-for-profit organisation, the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, which has sponsored around 400 students with internships and international conferences.
“They’ve come back and I’ve got about 10 of them working for me,” he said. “They keep me up to speed.”
Mr Manners’ Facebook friends include state, federal and international politicians, media personalities and leading economists.
After six decades of pushing red dirt and advocating for deregulation, Mr Manners describes the current friction between the mining sector and federal government over the proposed Mineral Resource Rent Tax as a “war”.
He says the industry as it stands has a handful of “generals” in this “war” such as Fortescue Metals chief executive Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and Atlas Iron managing director David Flanagan, who needs strategists to re-write the public perception of mining companies.
“We’ve got a whole heap of very effective generals in the industry running effective companies,” he said.
“But they don’t seem to have any background philosophers thinking [about the] bigger picture.”
Mr Manners said the industry has underestimated how negative the public perception of miners is.
“We’ve left it to the federal politicians to promote our industry thinking that they’ll do the right thing,” he said.
“The federal politicians will always cast the mining industry in the role of a rapacious industry because that will enable them to get away with levying another tax.”
Rather, the mining industry should be marketed as a creative industry lead by “heroes” like Forrest and Flanagan, he said.
“Can you imagine anything more creative than going out into a field where there is nothing and making a discovery and then turning that into something of value that benefits every Australian?” he said.
“The politicians would never get away with levying an additional tax on an industry that’s creative.”
Mr Manners was inducted as a living legend into the Mining Hall of Fame on the weekend. His nomination came from industry leaders, who included Hancock Prospecting chairman and director Gina Rinehart, another “hero” of industry.
“Ron’s support for the mining industry and policies which enable its growth, is legendary, and extremely important for Australia,” Ms Rinehart said in a statement.
Mr Manners said he believes the Hall of Fame should take an active role in advocating for the industry as a spectator to its rich history.
He has seen his share of mining booms but said it was the individuals who kept the sector skilled during the lows who should be recognised.
Mr Manners’ lists his greatest achievement as the work he undertook as chairman of Croesus Mining in the 1980s.
In a difficult climate, Mr Manners raised start-up funds and floated Croesus, which went on to produce 1.275 million ounces of gold and pay 11 dividends to shareholders.
“It’s been an interesting career,” he said.
“One thing leads to another and I’m right in the middle of it all.
“It’s just not going to get boring.”
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