Although Melbourne is likely not at the top of the list of Australian mining jurisdictions that come to mind, for more than two decades the Melbourne Mining Club has been working to promote the resources sector and offer networking opportunities for senior leaders in global mining and mining service companies.

Founded in 2001, the Melbourne Mining Club (MMC) is a not-for-profit joint venture (JV) between the Minerals Council of Australia and the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM). With a clear goal of providing a forum to discuss the key topics facing the global resources industry, the MMC’s volunteer-based Steering Committee organises six lunch events per year, inviting the chairs and chief executives from mining giants to come and speak.

At the MMC’s May 2024 lunch event, it was announced that, after a decade in the role, Richard Morrow would be retiring from his position as Chair of the Steering Committee and Orica’s Vice President – Global Business Services and Organisational Effectiveness, Sally Cox, would be stepping into the role as the first female Chair in the MMC’s history.

PR to resources: making the switch

A Bachelor of Arts followed by a graduate degree in Business and Public Relations led Ms Cox to a role in a PR firm specialising in financial and corporate communications. This eventually provided a pathway for communications roles in the mining and resources sector.

“After a number of years working for clients across the energy, FMCG and financial services sectors, I ultimately took an in-house role with mining company Zinifex Limited as a Communications Advisor.

“I was immediately enthralled by the industry and loved learning about the business, how mines and processing plants operated, its challenges and how the company managed them proactively with a focus on ESG.”

Ms Cox said she also recognised the career pathways on offer in the sector and how, if people were willing to jump in and give something a go, they could be rewarded with new challenges and opportunities.

“This was how I started to move across different functional roles and branched out from communications to human resources, strategy and transformation.

“I have been supported by wonderful leaders in the industry who encouraged me to try new things, pursue further education, enabled me to manage the challenges of raising a family and the flexibility required to successfully manage work/life balance.”

Although Ms Cox said there have been plenty of challenges that she encountered throughout her career, she said that she always received the support of her leaders along the way.

Pinpointing one time that presented not only the biggest challenge but also a career highlight, Ms Cox spoke about the time she spent living and working in China.

“I spent three years working in Hong Kong for BASF, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, through a period of great disruption including the 2019 protests in Hong Kong and the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Being away from home, working across new jurisdictions in Asia, learning new cultural contexts and navigating a complex multinational organisation was personally challenging, but also very rewarding and definitely a career highlight, as I feel I really developed my leadership skills through the experience.”

Richard Morrow and Sally Cox. Image: Paul Scott Photography

History-making appointment

Throughout her time in the resources sector, Ms Cox has made the effort to attend industry events to not only stay abreast of the challenges and innovations in the industry but also to network with her peers. Her efforts meant that she was acquainted with and attended events held by the MMC before she accepted her new role.

“I first joined the Steering Committee of the Melbourne Mining Club in 2018.

“For many years I had been a guest at the events and supported the CEOs of companies I had worked with to prepare keynote speeches for the lunches. The Club provides a unique networking opportunity and promotion of the industry and I felt after many years of benefitting from it that it was time I also dug in and contributed.”

Speaking about stepping into the role, Ms Cox said it is an honour to chair the Steering Committee of the MMC as it enters its 23rd year.

“The Steering Committee is a passionate group of volunteers from across the industry, supported by our joint venture partners. I hope to continue to build on the platform and legacy the Club has created and ensure it delivers value to its members and guests into the future as our industry continues to evolve.”

As the first woman to hold the position, a key focus for Ms Cox is increasing diversity within the sector.

“I am very passionate about supporting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the industry and am proud of the progress
we have made to date. We have many wonderful female leaders in senior roles right across the industry and it’s important that the Mining Club also reflects and leads on this.

“I think the business case for gender diversity is now well accepted across all industries – we know that more diverse and inclusive organisations are more successful across financial, social and other performance metrics.

“Mining, like a number of other technical industries, has been traditionally male-dominated and, like other industries, will benefit from a greater balance of skills, experience and viewpoints, particularly in leadership discussions.”

Reflecting on her own experiences throughout the nearly 20 years working in the traditionally male-dominated sector, Ms Cox said she can see how far the industry has come in the time since she first began her career.

“In my early years I remember being not only the only woman in the room, but also often the youngest person in the room. It felt intimidating and was challenging to feel confident to share my opinions.”

Future-facing advice

Stepping into the role as Chair of the Steering Committee, Ms Cox finds herself with a new platform where she can offer advice to young women who are interested in or are already in the early stages of their career in the mining industry.

“The mining and resources sector provides fantastic career opportunities across a very broad range of roles, technical disciplines and locations. DEI and employee engagement are in the core of corporate strategies and the opportunities for young people are very attractive as the industry seeks to build its future talent pipelines.

“The industry is constantly evolving and adapting to external challenges and today sits at the forefront of supporting the global energy transition – it’s an exciting place to be.”

Featured image: Sally Cox speaking at a Melbourne Mining Club event. Image: Paul Scott Photography

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