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GIG building diversity - Mining Monthly

Friday, 3 February 2017

TEN years ago Kelly Carter embarked on arguably a bigger adventure than her move from the UK to Australia. She left the private practise in corporate law and moved into resources and has just added industry advocacy to her workload.

It was the height of the mining boom and Russian miner Norilsk was looking to break into the Australian nickel market.

When Carter joined the company the nickel price was sitting around $68 per tonne.

Unfortunately Norilsk had come into Australia and bought up nickel assets at the top of the market. That $68 a tonne price did not last for too long and rapidly the price fell to about $8/t and Norilsk ended up offloading its Australian assets.

These days Carter is vice-president legal and compliance for Gold Fields Australia.

She is not only the company’s senior counsel in the country but also part of its regional executive – which is made up of the overarching management team for the region. This group not only runs Gold Fields operations in Australia but also reports straight into its corporate office in Johannesburg. Carter is the only female on that regional executive.

Interestingly, her journey with Gold Fields has been almost the opposite of her time with Norilsk.

When Carter joined Gold Fields the company only had St Ives and Agnew and the gold price was on its way up. These days it is a much bigger operation after picking up a number of Barrick operations and recently taking over the management of the Gruyere gold project.

So how did someone who specialised in superannuation law in London end up being counsel to a mining company?

“I had the opportunity when working in private practise to work exclusively with a resources company for a period of time,” Carter said.

“To me it was uniquely Australian.”

Also, given she arrived in the midst of arguably the biggest construction boom the mining industry had ever seen, all roads seemed to head to a mine site.

“Mining was so different from what I had done before,” Carter said.

“It became utterly infectious once I became involved in it.

“I love going on site.”

Having said that, Carter had already had some exposure to Australian mining. She had previously spent some time mining opals in the New South Wales outback while on holiday, discovering a couple of small opals during that time.

Carter attributes her willingness to go on site to helping her get traction in the traditionally male domain of mining.

“I’m a blonde female lawyer,” she explained. “It was hard to build credibility.

“To me the best way had been to get out on site, put your boots on and go out and talk to people.”

Besides her work with Gold Fields, Carter has also joined the Gold Industry Group as a deputy to its chairman Richard Hayes. Also joining GIG is mining director Sharon Warburton.

“The gold industry is so iconic in Western Australia but I don’t think it is particularly well understood,” Carter said.

She spoke at GIG’s Women in Gold function last year and was impressed by the response to that.

“I think diversity in the industry is getting there but it is slow progress,” Carter said.

“I think if the business imperative for diversity was understood it would progress quicker.

“It talks to that idea of having diversity of thought at the table. The collective wisdom of a group is improved by having these diverse perspectives there. The collective as a whole performs better.”

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