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“I have learned the most and something that I value the most is diversity and diversity in its truest. Most honest perspective, which is bringing other people’s views to your decision making and to your thinking, which then allows you to see the world more broadly. And I don’t restrict meaning to gender diversity. I’m talking about the diversity in cultural perspective, diversity of type of people and diversity of experience.”
Dr. Jacqui Coombes,
Chief Executive Officer,
In the ever-evolving landscape of the global minerals industry, a few individuals have made a more profound impact than Jacqui Coombes, CEO of Amira Global. A visionary leader and strategic advisor, Dr. Coombes’ journey from a Statistician with a passion for spatial modelling to an esteemed figure in the mining industry has been nothing short of inspiring. Her unyielding commitment to excellence and dedication to fostering collaboration have propelled Amira Global to new heights, leading to the establishment of groundbreaking initiatives globally.
Coming from a background where she has been extremely fortunate with many opportunities, Dr. Coombes has felt a need to create a philosophy in her by trying to create opportunities for others and along with that, she has had an eclectic career path, as she simply followed her interests and pursued challenges. She originally trained as a Statistician where she specialized in spatial modelling which later morphed into a three-decade career in the mining industry, where her initial focus was on resource estimation before getting into the governance space. Her interest in resource estimation had resurfaced after authoring two technical books on the subject. Her mining career took a surprising turn when she landed her 3 months contract to work in Australia. She began to love everything around mining and hence motivated her full entry into the mining sector. She said, “…The culture around the mining industry was just amazing. I loved the people, I loved working with the people.”
Whilst she got a taste for academic life and worked as a research consultant at a university, she acquired a master’s degree in Commercial Resources Law. Further study was calling her and so she did a PhD in workplace reasoning, and along the way, she has amassed very valuable knowledge in governance, competency development theories, and the development of PhD students on the ‘JORC Code’. Jacqui later joined a Federally funded Growth Centre as General Manager – Innovation, followed up with a stint as Head of Innovation at Downer-Snowden, and then joined Amira as CEO 4 years ago.
Today, she is recognized as an expert in the field as a strategic advisor, and a thought leader with an extensive background in the global minerals industry, specializing in transforming insights into actionable strategies. Her story is an inspirational one; full of dedication and an unwavering commitment to excellence.
The exposure to the mining industry has brought about significant passion in her that she never imagines herself working in another industry. She recalls, “I have had opportunity so many times to move away from mining into other areas, but yeah, I just find myself gravitating back to mining all the time.” Dr. Coombes thrives on challenging the status quo and driving innovation across the full mine value chain, spanning diverse commodities and minerals. Her strengths lie in quantitative and qualitative data analysis, enabling informed decision-making and optimized performance. Her unwavering belief in the value of diversity, both in perspectives and experiences, has guided her leadership style. By fostering collaboration across industry, government, and academia, Dr. Coombes has transformed Amira Global into an exemplar of transparent systems and governance. She said, “I have learned the most and something that I value the most is diversity and diversity in its truest. Most honest perspective, which is bringing other people’s views to your decision making and to your thinking, which then allows you to see the world more broadly. And I don’t restrict meaning to gender diversity. I’m talking about the diversity in cultural perspective, diversity of type of people and diversity of experience.”
When she joined Amira Global, she felt the organization lacked enthusiasm, and energy but her passion about fostering collaboration across industry, government, and academia, leveraging diverse perspectives to catalyze growth and innovation has drove Amira Global to an extent that now it has transparent systems and governance. With her experience, Amira Global now has clear objectives and strategy. Along with it, she has managed to develop a fantastic executive team which has expanded to Africa where two of the organizations’ building block projects-The Pan-African Institute of Decarbonization and The Centre of Excellence are located.
VISION BECOMING A REALITY: AMIRA GLOBAL AFRICA INTIATIVES
Founded by senior executives of the major mining companies in Melbourne in 1959, Amira Global is a member-based not-for-profit organization charged with transforming the minerals industry through thought leadership platforms; R&D collaboration to address key breakthroughs; and the development of implementation and commercialization pathways to ensure R&D and innovation outcomes translate back into industry. Over 700 major collaborative research projects have since been conducted on important topics across the whole mining value chain (exploration, mining, mineral processing, and environment). What sets Amira Global apart from other organizations that are also advancing the industry is its concentration on science, technology, engineering, mathematics. It is really the sciences that underscore any advancement in the minerals industry. So, Amira’s place and the building blocks that the projects have, include projects in the geosciences. Over 400 postgraduates have been trained within projects from 1990-2004, many of whom then joined industry and some very significant leaders in the industry who were students in these programs and kind of ended up in leadership positions. Since its inception about 63 years ago, the organization has had several successful projects, which includes the P9Q project.
The P9Q Project is a three-year program designed by the AMIRA and the P9Q Research Partners in close cooperation with an industry driven P9Q Working Committee to validate and verify 12 – 18 mineral processing equipment models that originated from the P9P Project. Within its core, one of Amira Global’s mandate is to represent members from the natural resources sector seeking to enhance, sustain and deliver transformational research and development, innovation and implementation to the benefit of society.
PAN AFRICAN DECARBONAIZATION INSTITUTE: UNLEASHING AFRICA’S TALENT.
Driven by a profound understanding of Africa’s unique challenges and opportunities, the board of Amira Global embarked on a transformative journey, culminating in the birth of the Pan African Decarbonization Institute (PADI). PADI seeks to unlock Africa’s talent to harness the decarbonization opportunity. The Institute’s vision is to be a self-sustaining pipeline of Pan-African research, operational and technical leadership, talent, and decarbonization skills from resource management to product development and delivery.
PADI is supported by a conglomerate of esteemed partners, including the University of Cape Town, Reminex Research and Volarization Center, KNUST College of Engineering, University of Mines and Technology, and the African Centre of Excellence for Batteries (ACEB), in collaboration with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambian Universities. Through collaboration and innovation, PADI seeks to lead Africa’s participation in the decarbonization value chain, forging impactful connections between world-class research capabilities and industry needs.
Each Partner has an assigned focus area but will collaborate with other institutions. The KNUST College of Engineering has been assigned specifically to collaborate in developing technologies for extracting various energy minerals and metals, data science, pilot testing, biomass conversion, grid-connected renewable energy systems, solar PV, and hydrogeology.
As the PADI will lead Africa to participate meaningfully in the decarbonization processes, the institute has been set up to contribute to industry-focused research to develop the whole value chain, transform energy systems and sectors globally, and ensure the economic return is maximized for Africa’s new energy resources. It will also connect world-class research capability with the needs of the African industry to build knowledge and develop processes and decarbonization applications using Africa’s resources and enable research that tackles industry challenges and connect researchers as well as other sponsors to maximize the benefits and optimize critical minerals extraction and value.
According to the Amira Global team, the board is deliberating incorporation of more Polytechnic colleges into it, who are also quite advanced with the carbon kind of research to ensure that Africans are equipped to participate in the full value chain of the decarbonization.
“This is the first time that we are trying to make an African wide program that is going to be quite empowered in the different regions and the reason why I think this is going to succeed is because we are linking it to the institutions themselves. So, beyond the charismatic personalities, the institution themselves will also carry it, and the new people will bring in new ideas,” says Mr. Anthony Anyimadu
CENTRE OF EXECELLENCE: FOSTERING INNOVATION AND EMPOWERMENT.
In a strategic move to empower Africa’s mining sector, and create a platform for innovative ideas, Amira Global established the Amira African Centre of Excellence. This ecosystem of startups allows participants to test and develop their ideas, transforming them into tangible realities within the mining and engineering life cycle. Under the visionary leadership of Anthony Anyimadu, Vice President Mineral Processing at Amira Global and Head of Amira Africa, the Centre aims to upgrade African skills through world-class facilities, enabling practical involvement of local suppliers in the mining supply chain. The initiative covers traditional gold mineral exploitation as well as critical minerals flowsheet development and testing, positioning Africans as leaders in the mining industry, not mere recipients.
Anthony further explained, “The scope is very big and what we want to do with this is to have a place where all stakeholders from projects, from exploration, geologists, from operating mine, from people who sell commodities. Testing the ideas from a small scale all the way to research kind of scale or and even mining designs and plant designs.”
The key target for this project includes African skills upgrade enabled by world class facilities with scale and scope to enable practical participation by participants in the mining and engineering life cycle. This includes design, optimization support, and testing of equipment and consumables for local suppliers in the supply chain. The facilities and technical collaboration cover traditional gold mineral exploitation as well as critical minerals flowsheet development and testing. The idea is to position Africans as leaders in mining not as receivers.
As part of its preparations to set up in Africa, the centre has already formed the Consortium of Researchers from universities across the region who are busy developing plans and their skills program for the small-scale miners. The organization has several partnerships with other centres of excellence which includes the Canadian based Centre of Excellence in Mining Innovation, Australian Automation Robotics and Mintek, South Africa. The Centre also seeks to establish a new generation of scientists and research leaders in minerals beneficiation to support the innovation needed into the future and indeed it is an opportunity for those with passion to make use of Amira’s platforms. Knowledge is key.
In 2020, Vaughan Chamberlain, Chair- Amira Global Senior Vice President spent an enormous amount of time in Ghana spearheading some of the concepts to grow and expand the Centre of Excellence and he is certain the project will help many and will be a success. He explained, “With the studies, we need to put in place the funding that we require, but as you know it is all an integrated process. I spent a lot of time working in Ghana, trying to put in place all these concepts. At the same time, it was not the easiest thing in the world, but it is the way we are going to succeed ultimately.”
Unfortunately, all good things do not last. As Dr. Coombes ventures into her new role as interim CEO at Mining3, she continues to be a beacon of inspiration for aspiring leaders and professionals in the mining sector. Her unwavering dedication to creating opportunities for others and promoting a culture of excellence reverberates throughout the mining industry, leaving an indelible mark on the global minerals landscape.
“Jacqui put the systems in place. She has put the team in place, so the new CEO is really coming to grow and take the organization forward. I think we are in good space from that perspective, and I am really excited about the future. We’re going to miss Jacqui. Jacqui, thanks for everything you have done to sell us to this point,” added Vaughan.
Her story is just a reminder of the importance of staying true to one’s passion and interest and that, hence, individuals can carve out successful careers that are impactful and rewarding. As she remarked, “Great things happen when you open the door for someone else; when you provide suitable opportunities so they can be in flow … everyone wins.”
Conclusively, with Amira Global Africa at the helm, the mining value chain stands on the precipice of unprecedented growth and innovation. Through research collaborations and talent development initiatives, Amira Global has set in motion an effective system to transform Africa’s mining landscape, driving sustainable progress and empowering the continent to lead the charge in decarbonization and minerals beneficiation. As we look to the future, let us take a page from the remarkable journey of Jacqui Coombes and embrace diversity, collaboration, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Together, we can unlock the full potential of the mining value chain, transforming insights into actionable strategies and charting a course towards a brighter and more sustainable future for the entire global minerals industry.