Let’s make sure everyone can come to the party
Last issue, I took to task company executives and directors who grab a disproportionate amount of the pie for themselves (“Lead by example”, p.5, CMJ June/July 2002). I must have struck a sensitive nerve, because I quickly heard back from people with junior companies (e.g., “Stock options defended”, p.7, this issue).
I maintain that those who reward themselves too richly are hurting their companies, everyone associated with the companies, and ultimately, society.
Having sounded so self-righteous, I must admit that greed is not confined to the boardroom. As a young geologist, I recall when I first heard the term “boulder bonus”. I was exploring for uranium in the Northwest Territories, and nearly a month had passed without any of our crew spotting an outcrop, much less any uranium. Our party boss, Daniel Rota, announced that the company would pay any employee $50 for each uranium-bearing discovery; he quickly added that we had to leave the rock in place–we were not to break it up and bring it in one piece a day. Suddenly prospecting wasn’t just for fun; it might pay off. The incentive made us more diligent with our scintillometers, and there were a few bonuses paid out that summer, but no one (including the company) got rich.
Lurking around the dark corners of our business is the smell of easy money. Greed is what drives a lot of people to invest in penny-dreadful mining stocks. Greed is the motivation to go searching for El Dorado (I’ve seen the old movies). At one time or another, most of us have dreamed up a scheme to get ahead, or been taken in by a spiel about getting in on the ground floor of a new commodity, company, hot spot or trend.
The cover story of this issue is all about a new trend, sustainable development, that I hope will not become mired in greed. I was privileged to attend the Global Mining Initiative conference in mid-May. I say ‘privileged’ because registration was pricey, and you had to be invited to go. One could sense the crowd was used to having money, or rubbing shoulders with the wealthy.
If we are going to succeed in the noble search for clean, safe methods of providing the necessary metal and mineral products to our children, we have to be careful that the process is not derailed at the start by too much spending on unfocused efforts. The new international mining association–International Council on Mining and Metals–must not become an international sink-hole that demands large members’ fees but does not deliver.
The path toward sustainable development in every sector, not just mining, needs steps that are practical, affordable, logical, and hard to resist. We have to make sure that every company around the world can afford a ticket to the party.