Working with Mining Consultants: Tips for Mining Project Managers
Management styles vary widely—and what matters in the end are the results. But in the chaotic, sometimes political world of mining investment and mining consulting, there are certain qualities that are especially troublesome in a mining project manager. Because you are usually pulling together mining consultants from different firms, different cultures, different backgrounds and different philosophies, one of the most critical challenges you’ll face is getting the most out of each of these skilled consultants. And in some regard, there is a definite wrong way to do this.
This quick article should serve as a guide to both project managers, mining executives and mining consultants who may be suspicious that they’ve been hired on to a toxic group. Keep an eye out for these qualities.
The Mining Project Manager Won’t Take Initiative to Learn
Mining consultants are hired for their expertise and experience. Whether it’s in hydrology, reclamation, designing tailing impoundments or permitting, each mining consultant brings an invaluable skillset to the table. As a project manager, it’s important to gain a significant understanding of what each consultant knows so you can make decisions in context. But just because your hiring a consultant doesn’t mean they can automatically zap their knowledge to you by osmosis. You can certainly pick their brains, but be willing to take learning on as a personal responsibility as well. Read white papers. Utilize resources. And when you come across tough concepts or esoteric topics, then ask your consultant to sit down with you and explain it to you.
The Mining Project Manager Has an Insatiable Ego
Being put in charge of a multi-million dollar project can be a truly, truly daunting task. Oftentimes, it’s enough to shake the confidence of the mining project manager, causing them to become insecure and constant need of validation. These project managers will fear that their team will recognize them as a phony or underqualified and will spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings trying to convince their mining consultants (or themselves) of their accolades. A more prudent way forward is to focus on the issues that are applicable immediately and the near future. If a project manager is trying to win you over as a mining consultant, it should raise flags.
The Mining Project Manager Doesn’t Read Reports
Why pay a mining consultant if you’re not going to read their reports? There’s an easy answer to that: to satisfy regulatory or shareholder requirements. Project mining managers who pay for reports but don’t peruse them aren’t interested in doing things the right way or doing things better. They’ve already made up their minds on how things are going to roll, and they don’t care what input their mining experts have. This is a bad position to be in as a mining consultant, because it means that your name could get tied to a catastrophe or snafu. Get your project manager to read your reports, no matter how busy they are. You put good time and effort into them, and your recommendations are important to the project.
The Mining Project Manager Typically Works with Larger Consulting Companies
The benefit of working with a larger consulting company is that they provide you with a disposable, rotating bevy of staff. If you don’t like one, then you can demand that the consulting company supply another. This is the sign of a project manager who can’t or won’t embrace conflict resolution measures and can’t process criticism and differences in opinion productively. Not a good person to have heading your team.
The Mining Project Manager Purposefully Sows Distension
A mining project manager who can’t make up his or her own mind may try to get mining consultants to argue with one another to see which perspective wins out. This gladiator-style of management is both dangerously passive and ethically insidious. A better approach is to encourage cooperation and combine the best aspects of each viewpoint, rather than giving favor to the most assertive voice.
These warnings signs are neither comprehensive nor absolute deal breakers. There is such a thing as a personality incompatibility—and it doesn’t always have to get in the way of getting a mining project done right. But as a mining consultant, it’s important for you to recognize a bad situation before it gets worse. Your reputation is on the line, and being part and parcel to a failed mining project can be anathema to your career as a mining consultant.