For metals mining leader MMG Ltd, their efforts aren’t just about commodity resource production. They are about the community of individuals who together make the industry stronger through their contributions. At every level, from administrative staff to metallurgists, from laboratory specialists to explorers, the success of MMG lives in the hearts and souls of its people.
MMG currently holds assets in Australia, Peru, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The firm is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX: MMG) and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX: 28), and employs roughly 11,500 people worldwide, 4,000 of whom are direct reports. As producers of copper, zinc, and base metals, MMG has an important role in industrial, technological, and social progress, supporting the prosperity of millions worldwide.
MMG was established in 2009, when the majority assets of OZ Minerals, Ltd, were purchased by China Minmetals Corporation through its subsidiary China Minmetals Non-ferrous Metals Co. Ltd (China Minmetals). The acquisition created a significant competitive advantage for MMG, providing valuable insights into global commodity demand.
“Our relationship with China Minmetals enables us to take advantage of the networks and extensive distribution and marketing channels in China’s base metals market, as well as providing a solid financial foundation and the benefits of technical skills and cross-cultural awareness,” explained Michelle Greenhalgh, the company’s Global GM of People and Benefits.
China Minmetals’ sustainability philosophy, in the words of CEO Geoffrey Gao, “is based around a firm commitment to creating the greatest possible integrated value for the economy, society, and the environment.”
Mining for Progress
A member of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), a global organisation committed to safe, fair, and sustainable practices in the metals and mining industry, MMG is on the leading edge of safety and sustainability. “We joined the ICMM at the start of our journey, and we saw it as a way of demonstrating that we have sustainable mining practices,” Greenhalgh said. We share knowledge, ideas, and science with other members, and we also commit to the principles of ICMM to ensure people bring their best to the organisation.”
Organisational culture is vitally important to MMG’s success. “When values become actions and not just words they are a proxy for culture.” The company’s cultural values of safety, mutual respect, doing what they say, working together and wanting to be better set a high bar. Symbols that transcend language, literacy, and culture are used to illustrate those values to the world.
In what Greenhalgh terms as a classic “think globally, act locally” strategy, the heads of the company’s executive committees also direct its diversity and inclusion strategy. “They empower and champion local action. Each site in each region has their own committee to decide on what the priorities are and how they actually make the rubber hit the road and get results locally.”
Social justice is a key focus of MMG, particularly when it comes to gender equity in the workforce. “Certainly in Australia, gender equity has been a big topic for a number of years. We recognise that, generally, the more gender equity and the more female participation you have in your business the better it will perform. The reasons for that are obvious: There's strength in diversity, in expressing different opinions and perspectives that help to make a better business. For us it's really fundamental. It's not just about the diversity of the workforce; what's really important is the inclusion part of the formula,” she said.
“We have a very diverse cultural workforce. When we're not inclusive in our behaviour we miss lots of opportunities to see things from different perspectives. We found that given that we already have lots of cultural diversity, from a corporate perspective we decided that our strategy would focus first and foremost on gender equity.”
The local committee’s efforts in the DRC have been particularly transformative. “We've had really amazing results there. … If you go to any mine in the DRC you won't see very many women in operational roles,” she noted. “The challenge we have is very low turnover. Nobody leaves. It's hard to increase the numbers when people are not leaving. The way we can do it is through training and promoting people, and because we don't have a massive turnover it's emboldened us to be able to say whenever we get a new trainable vacancy we will only fill it with a woman. We can train somebody in all the production modes whether it is in the plant or the mine, we will only fill those roles with women, obviously in support roles as well.”
MMG lobbied the government of the DRC for over two years to successfully change a law that forbade women to work on night shifts. Now, women are allowed to work the night shift, and any issues they may have about personal or psychological safety while doing so are supported and resolved by MMG management in the best way that suits their individual needs. “We've had to do special work with them to understand where they do and don’t feel safe, and put all the measures we can in place to make them feel safe, especially at night.”
“Because unemployment is so high in the DRC, having a well-paid job is highly coveted. Women are having families, so we've also put a lot of support in place for them. We have lactation rooms, where women can express their breast milk and take it home to the caregiver for their child. We just try and give them as much flexibility as possible.”
In their Peruvian site at Las Bambas, MMG is part of the community’s beating heart. “We are transforming the mindset that it's OK for women to work, and that it’s OK to work with our local suppliers.” They also work with local communities to develop the skills needed for long-term, sustainable growth. This includes local employment, business development, and capacity building for farmers so they can take their goods to market and support their families.
“Our local employment agenda and getting women into mining go hand-in-hand,” Greenhalgh pointed out. “This is my philosophy: In any small local population, if you do a normal distribution graph, how many of those people would be suitable, able, willing, and motivated to work on a mine site. Whether it’s somewhere in the Americas or regional Australia or in the Congo? I reckon you'd get the same percentage wherever you went. Not everybody wants to work in that environment. Then you take the small number of potential local employees that you've got and then you cut it in half because of gender. You're limiting local opportunities even more.
“The maths of it is just crazy. You have to include both genders. And who are the people in local communities who influence children? And who cares about community and cares about education and sustainability in the future more than anybody? It's usually the women. It makes sense to get as many as possible into your business. Women tend to ask most questions in the pre-work meetings, and they take care of the equipment — there's lots of science out there showing that women do less damage to equipment than men. Also, in a mine, as in any part of society, you can't just have all men or all women. It just makes sense to have balance.”