Q. How did you become Chief Technical Officer of Ausenco and a global leader in minerals processing?

I started working in industry at 17 years of age, whilst going to university part-time, making soaps, glues and fertilisers. I wanted to be a geologist but at the time my dad convinced me there wasn’t a strong future for geologists (most drove taxis at the time due to a low point in the mining cycle), so I looked for something similar. As a result, my first degree was a Bachelor of Applied Science (Applied Chemistry).

I worked for a couple of years with an assay lab and then gained a scholarship with Aberfoyle to complete my Master of Science in organic chemistry with a focus on design of tin flotation collectors.

During my eight+ years at university, while studying and then lecturing, including teaching at the School of Mines in Western Australia, I spent time working on various flotation issues and technologies, and some gold projects.

Upon realising that the mining industry paid a lot better than academia, I returned to Aberfoyle to work on the Hellyer Project in Tasmania on a “six-month contract” that lasted five years. This launched me into engineering design and plant optimisation through the design and expansion of the Hellyer concentrator. After five years I got sick of the rain (about 270 days a year on the West Coast of Tasmania) and I then returned to Western Australia to work for Western Mining (now BHP) at Kambalda as Technical Services Superintendent. Over about two years at Kambalda I worked on plant expansions and technical aspects of process and business optimisation.

I joined Minproc in Perth in 1993 as a “flotation expert” (ignorant of how much I did not know). This role developed into process engineering, design, study and commissioning management for concentrator projects like Cadia (copper-gold project in New South Wales, Australia), Didipio in the Philippines, Cerro Corona in Peru over a number of years, dealing with test work, design and commissioning.

In about 2004 I joined Ausenco as Manager Technology and Innovation. This morphed into managing Ausenco’s study managers as GM Technical Solutions. The Technical Solutions group reached a peak of about 30 people and was comprised of most of the experts within the minerals-focussed Ausenco business at that time.

As the company grew through acquisition the challenges and opportunities expanded. I took on the role of Chief Technical Officer in 2012 with a focus on improving quality across our engineering management and design globally. This aspiration was challenged by the downturn in the mining business which caused a change in focus to consulting and winning work.

My current role remains focussed on “winning work” for Ausenco, and providing solutions for our clients. This involves working with our various practice leads on engineering and design improvements and influencing people to think about providing “cost effective solutions” rather than “engineered answers”.

Q. What advice do you have for newer engineering professionals in the resources sector?

I’ve got three key pieces of advice for all engineering professionals. Firstly, develop a breadth of experience on a range of projects. Due to the size of projects we do now, an engineer could be working on a single major project for up to four years. It could be excellent experience, but it isn’t necessarily broad. I think it’s important to experience diversity to develop your skills through different projects, teams, managers, locations, systems, thinking styles and outcomes – it will be by doing this that you learn.

Secondly, don’t always expect your career to follow a straight path. We don’t often see people climb a traditional career ‘ladder’ anymore. Seeking opportunities to work on a range of different projects, in different types of roles at different levels will add to the diversity of your skills and experience. Moving ‘up’ the ladder each time may not always help you gain the experience you need for your next role. Be open to opportunities.

Finally, always challenge what you do and how you think. I’ve got a favourite quote by George Bernard Shaw that sums it up: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

I pride myself on being an “unreasonable man”. It might not always sit well with my colleagues, clients, family or friends, but it’s core to improvement. I’d encourage everyone to be an “unreasonable man or woman” from time to time.

Click on these links for more on Greg's thoughts on the minerals processing industry and how it has changed over his career, as well as his take on comminution and the future for minerals processing.

For more information on Greg, please visit his expert profile page.