Good orebodies and high-performance project teams: Critical ingredients for success

It goes without saying that a good mine starts with a good orebody. However, a good orebody is not enough to turn a mass of rock into a successful and sustainable mining operation. Besides the combination of rigorous project management processes, technical knowhow, project financing, permitting, and stakeholder support, one ingredient is often left out when putting together a mining project; the need for a cohesive and effective project team, aligned internally and with the corporate office.

Based on my involvement with a number of mining projects over the last 20 years, the projects that were successful all had exceptional and high-performance teams, with a high degree of alignment, both locally and with the corporate office. Senior management in charge of these projects recognized the need to build high performance teams and to create the necessary project culture in order that the teams could be effective and accomplish their project objectives.

Not only are strong teams required to ensure the technical aspects of mining projects, but team alignment has also been proven to be a critical factor in stakeholder engagement. In other words, the degree of alignment with an organization directly translates into a company’s success with its stakeholders. There have been a number of projects over the years that started out with exceptional orebodies and outstanding technical teams; however, the projects were then stalled or stopped all together as a result of stakeholder pressure. In many of these cases, the project team was not aligned in how to engage with the project stakeholders. Some of these projects were able to get going and became operating mines, only to find themselves in a continual state of conflict with the stakeholders, once again due to lack of alignment within the team itself.

This lack of alignment can manifest itself in many ways. Not only is alignment critical at the project level but is also essential between the local project team and the corporate office. Even if the local team is aligned and functioning well as a group, if they are not on the same page as the corporate decision makers, this often leads to frustration, low morale, and the inability to move the project forward in an accordance with the budget and schedule.

Nowadays, a good orebody alone is not sufficient to develop a successful mining operation. If we look back at the successful mining projects, that are still operating as mines today, they all had exceptional teams, aligned and working together towards a common set of goals under one set of values. As much effort or more needs to be put into developing and aligning the team as addressing the technical aspects. Provided this approach is taken, the project has a much better probability of achieving the objective of becoming a successful and sustainable mining operation.