17 November 2009

The Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) at The University of Queensland has established a professorial position of engagement, believed to be a world-first for the tertiary sector.

Previously with UQ's WH Bryan Mining and Geology Research Centre, Dr Gideon Chitombo was appointed as the Professor of Minerals Industry Engagement with the SMI at a special ceremony at Customs House on Tuesday, November 17, attended by UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Debbie Terry and 50 representatives of the mining industry.

SMI Institute Director Professor Chris Moran said Dr Chitombo’s lengthy mining sector experience and international collaborative approach had generated real benefits for SMI, UQ and industry in the identification of areas where research was most needed, the “delivery of bang for industry research buck”, and the formation of global networks of research teams.

“The appointment of Dr Chitombo, is one of the first steps towards formally ensuring the primacy for engagement for the SMI in all of its activities, both strategic and operational,” Professor Moran said.

“Gideon’s appointment opens up the next chapter in pro-active engagement with industry which is the hallmark of SMI’s leadership in providing multi-disciplinary solutions to emerging issues for the resources sector.”

Since its inception in 2001, SMI had always put engagement first, Professor Moran said. “It recognises that to deliver key knowledge-based solutions to the sustainability challenges of the global resources industry that input and close relationships with industry/government/communities are essential,” Professor Moran said.

“SMI has always recognised the importance of engagement, and this is such an entrenched part of our culture that sometimes its essential operational contribution to our work is taken for granted. This formal appointment ensures that the contribution of engagement will always be acknowledged as part of the SMI/UQ Advantage.

“SMI aims to have research activities across a breadth of issues relevant to the Australian and international minerals industry. SMI also recognises the need to engage with industry at different levels.”

He said SMI’s base was built on an ability to engage at the operating level. The outcomes have been research which is directly relevant to operational efficiency and process improvement.

The SMI centres have developed a second level of engagement, typically focused on more strategic issues. “The emphasis here is on longer term, step-change type projects with the potential for significant impact on cost structures and improved resource utilisation,” Professor Moran said.

The third level of SMI engagement, is to seek the views of senior industry executives on the major challenges looming for the industry. It is this approach which has led to the establishment of SMI research in the areas of risk and safety, water, social responsibility and sustainable development.

Media: SMI Advancement Officer Tara Young on 3346 3434 or 0408 159 805.