The Mining Executive
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Business women in mining: Lara Smith breaks ground in the commodity market consultancy business

That sociocultural barriers exist, notably common prejudice, perceptions and implicit stereotyped notions on gender roles in the mining sector, is no overstatement. Running a sustainable and successful business is not easy, even more so when you are a woman operating in a historically male-dominated industry. However, for a mover and shaker in the mould of Lara Smith, Core Consultants’ founder and managing director, no barrier was too high to carve her own path in the mining industry. In June 2009 Lara founded Core Consultants in South Africa as the first dedicated commodity market consultancy in Africa and since its inception Lara has completed over 80 market studies on 5 continents and provided insight into over 30 commodity markets. Some of commodities includes base metals, bulk commodities, soft commodities, critical metals and rare earths. 

Given the status quo and stigma around the mining industry being a male’s playground, Lara decided to rub the stereotypes and she has successfully run her consultancy business for the past 14 years dealing with market research and analysis in the mining industry. Her organization became the first Western Company to track and analyze rare earths on a monthly basis which culminated in her being asked to speak at the Chinese Rare Earth Convention held in Beijing in 2011, where she presented on the Western view of China’s rare earth hoarding. 

Furthermore, as an internationally recognized expert in the field of mining analysis and a well-known speaker, Lara was the first person to introduce the topic of battery minerals and rare earths at the African Mining Indaba where she gave a keynote address on critical metals in 2010. For Smith, attending the African Mining Indaba was a game changer for her and it has opened many doors for her company’s growth. 

Prior to all this, as a holder of a BSc in Chemistry, Statistics and Economics and a BCom Hons in Financial Analysis and Portfolio Management from the University of Cape Town, Smith started off her career as an equity analyst at Foord Asset Management and then as the lead analyst as for the Steinmetz Group, Group, where she was responsible for sourcing, analyzing and evaluating potential mining acquisitions in Africa and the Baltic regions. She later became the President and CEO of Molten Metals Corp where she is also responsible for identifying potential investments, organizing PR and roadshows, negotiating offtake agreements and JV partnerships. 

As far as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in mining is concerned, progress has been made to create a more diverse society and, despite the odds, many women have achieved great things and Smith is of no exception. Her first consulting job was to write a book based on lithium mines for acquisition purposes (2009, 2012) and Coking Coal (2010) which each grossed the highest sales the highest sale figures for any book report in the Euromoney group, earning over GBP200,000. In addition, she also authored The Chrome Quarter & Stainless-Steel Review as well as several ferroalloy and steel trackers. Smith was also a lead consultant to advise Apple executives o $186,000 cobalt due diligence project, conducted analysis for a €227,000 pre-feasibility study in Botswana on behalf of the Europea Investment Bank (nickel/copper asset). 

Conclusively, this is not just because of ensuring that women have equal opportunities to men, and are treated in the same way, is the right thing to do, but also because it makes good sense for better outcomes. Smith’s story has just shown us that what men can do in the mining industry women if given the opportunity they can also excel big and bring forth positive results. 


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