By Laura Cornish.
March 2015 is a very special month for me – it represents 10 years (exactly) since I started my mining journey career.
Just putting that sentence into writing stirs my emotions – I can’t believe how quickly time goes by. I have met amazing people along my journey, had incredible experiences and travelled to some exotic places. I have learnt more than I ever thought I was capable of, about one of the world’s most economic-driving industries, and still continue to learn something new every day.
I have watched mining companies make something profitable out of nothing, develop great mining projects and in some cases, close them or sell them. You need at least 10 years to say you have seen a mining project start from nothing and become something, and now I can. I’ve seen massive mergers and acquisitions. I’ve seen asset spin-offs, I’ve seen technology breakthroughs and industry-changing concepts implemented. And I consider myself fortunate to write and share them with you still.
I entered into the mining world in 2005 when the mining sector was experiencing an incredible commodities pricing boom. The infamous Brett Kebble story was breaking. It was thrilling and I thought that the industry was unbreakable. But I’ve also seen it plunge into darkness and despair as the history-book economic recession gripped the world in 2008 which drove commodity prices to plummet and purse strings to zip shut. And still, six years later we are hurting from this. It aches when you know how good times were but I’m also glad to share in the tough times and gain strength from the strong networks of support the mining sector offers.
“It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the mining industry, and with each passing day, my love only grows stronger”
I attribute my own career growth and successes to many industry leaders and experts, but primarily to my first editor at SA Mining, Julie Walker. She taught me so much when I started and I now realise how lucky I was to have someone like Julie mentor me and help form the foundation of my career. She is a lady who was and still is well recognised in the industry, a metallurgist by profession whose sound understanding of the industry influenced people’s decisions to buy and sell shares when she worked for the Sunday Times.
Julie was no walk in the park though. There were a few occasions when she gave me back an article and told me to rewrite it because it was poor. It was hard at the time but in hindsight, that was how I learnt to be a good mining journalist. It led me to have great respect for her and find my own personal mining passion.
Or how about my first mine visit – to Mponeng – >3 km underground. If I had known at the time what I was in for I might not have gone through with it. But Julie ‘held my hand’ and my eyes were opened to an industry I never knew existed.
During my interview, Julie asked me, “why mining?” and I’ll never forget my response or the impression it left with her. “I didn’t study for four years to write about lipstick colours and fashion,” I replied. “I want to write about something that counts something that can make a difference in the world.” It think it was those remarks that ‘got me the job’.
When Julie left SA Mining, and South Africa to move with her husband to the DRC I never believed I could fill her place and fulfil the editor’s position. And while I never replaced her, she gave me the tools and knowledge to take SA Mining in a new direction and share my industry love in the way I knew how.
People still ask me the same question today that Julie did all those years ago and the response hasn’t changed, it has just ‘expanded’ – Julie took a chance on me, empowered me, trusted me and gave me the room to develop – like a butterfly and I grew my wings to fly. And I’m still flying. The mining industry gets in your blood and there is no turning back once it happens, I’m certainly proof of that.
Next to most mining heads, 10 years is not a lot of time, but it is to me and represents the start of my long-term career journey. I hope to look back after the my first 10 years and feel the same sense of accomplishments that I feel now. There is so much more to learn and experience and today I take the first step forward towards that. The industry remains as exciting as ever, for different reasons than in 2005, but exciting nonetheless.
My future is lined with potential new meetings, exciting new ventures and the thrill of connecting with an industry that is constantly changing, growing and evolving – with me. Cheers to the future, to meeting you and the next 10+ years.