EDITOR: | December 30th, 2016 | 2 Comments

Rare earths and seeking a “culture of excellence”

| December 30, 2016 | 2 Comments

It’s the end of a very interesting and challenging year. Some of the world’s politics have been game changing; economic response has been quite unforeseen and is still somewhat unpredictable; industry and market specialists seem at a loss to explain, never mind predict, what is or is likely to happen. I have decided to move onwards and upwards. Searching for writings that can be of more value to you; the avid readers of InvestorIntel. Not the same boring lack of news about rare earths, but something enlightening, something that you can look forward to, something that can be more helpful, and a series that gives all readers something across most, if not all, of the sectors that InvestorIntel covers. Well that’s my goal. I am going to do this through further explanation and development of my concept of “A Culture of Excellence”. But first let’s start the transition. The news on rare earth prices.

If you can see a slight uptick in prices across the range, that’s good. Usually a lift in one “group” of rare earths has a negative impact on those others that are co-produced. So an across the range lift could be a sign that the whole technology metals sector is lifting together. A very good sign. Watch this space!

Breaking News out of China: Northern Rare Earths (Baotou) has announced it is developing a new 120 sq kilometre industrial park to add further value to the rare earths produced from the Baotou operations. Top of the list of the end use products is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. Perhaps as many as 20 per annum. This will certainly impact on the magnet side of the rare earths business.

Let’s get back to culture. Last article I gave My Wikipedia definitions of culture, but my simplification is better able to start the understanding process that you need to obtain, so you can see and understand this culture of excellence for yourself.

I put culture simplistically as: “The way things are done around here. It’s who we are, it’s what we believe, it’s what we stand for and at the end of the day, it’s the way we operate.”

I want to break down this simple definition so you better understand a culture of excellence. Why? Because I would doubt many of you have seen it. You have seen glimpses of excellence, in technology, in operational cost savings, in instances of environmental achievement, but not across a whole business, and certainly not described as a culture. Because if you want to build a company with excellence as its culture you have to see it across all phases of development, and not just through glimpses. To be a culture, it has to be across the business.

“The way things are done around here”. The Way – seems everyone knows what is the standard of operating, the motis operandi, a clear path. Things are done – a clear task orientated approach that is very much results focussed. Around here – everywhere in the workplace, from frontline to Board Room.

“It’s who we are”. The culture is owned by all, and I mean all. We live it, breathe it and are nurtured by it.

“It’s what we believe, it’s what we stand for”. It is our life force, and we give it our all.

“And at the end of the day, it’s the way we operate” And we trust it to deliver the results we all need for the future of the business and for our own prosperity.

Philosophy over for the moment, but can you think of times when you have seen excellence in the field? In design? In management? At the Board table? (And all in the same company, all at once?). You need some examples.

Junior Explorer, first drilling campaign. Contract driller. Property is located adjacent to sensitive environmental area. What would excellence look like? Why? Because this is what a Junior Explorer must establish as it’s culture from day one if it wants to have a culture of excellence going forward. Comments – next article.

Feasibility Study Developer, new technology, new industry to the area, new risks, maybe competing with the Chinese. What would excellence look like? Why? Because this is what a Feasibility Study Developer must establish as it’s culture from day one if it wants to have a culture of excellence going forward. Comments – next article.

Commissioning Manager, new technology, new industry, inexperienced operating crews, nervous regulator. You guessed it! What would excellence look like? Guessed it again! Why? Because this impacts on your developing culture. And if you want a culture of excellence, the next article may provide some answers here.

Chairman. How do you progress from Junior Explorer through Feasibility, through commissioning and operations, trying to ensure that a culture of excellence is being developed and maintained? Read on in 2017.

Clues to the answers were given in my previous writings on Success Factors (valuable pre-reading), but what I want to do is build on those success factors in such a way that “A Culture of Excellence” can be seen as the way forward in development, the way of discriminating between projects in development, and perhaps the way to change the whole resource industry persona. Let’s get our Social Licence back!

So my thoughts are to develop the understanding of a culture of excellence in generic terms, in lay mans terms, in a way that can be understood across all of the InvestorIntel audience. In this development of understanding, I will use concrete examples across all levels of the business and at all stages of the development. You will be able to see excellence that you can model, look for, and compare.

I want to expand this excellence thinking not by simple reviews of company press releases, conference presentations, etc, etc,. I want to look for (and find) excellence. I want to provide you with a different view point. And that view point is excellence. We will need a progressive development in some of the InvestorIntel sectors, as some technical understanding is needed to follow the discussion.

So welcome to 2017. The year we strove for and found excellence.

Steve Mackowski


Mr Mackowski is a qualified engineer in mineral processing with over 30 years technical and operational experience in rare earths, uranium, industrial minerals, nickel, kaolin ... <Read more about Steve Mackowski>

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