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KEYNOTE: Back to the Future – Still on the Dark Side


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Author P D Munro


This is a reprise of the paper ‘Back to the Future – Why Change Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Progress’ presented to the Tenth Mill Operators’ Conference in 2009. It was observed that the ‘boom and bust’ cycles of the industry, together with trends in tertiary education and the effects of fly-in fly-out (FIFO) operations raised serious questions about the sustainability of human capital in the mineral processing sector.

In 2016 we find ourselves in a ‘bust’ after enjoying a decade of the longest commodity price ‘boom’ in a century. In the ‘boom’ did we:

  • make any technological breakthroughs?
  • put measures in place to improve our human capital, especially in the area of ‘professional formation’?

The paper makes observations on the current performance of mineral processing engineers and the organisational milieu in which they operate. It questions whether mineral processing engineers are actually ‘adding value’ at some sites given their organisational and operational practices.

Some technical trends are examined and what it might mean for mineral processing engineers.

Given the above and demographic trends for mineral industry professionals, changes to the seemingly current laissez-faire model of professional development are proposed.


Munro, P D, 2016. Back to the Future – Still on the Dark Side, in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference 2016, pp 341–348 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).