Q&A series #47 : Interview with Fiona Murfitt

Evolution of Gold mining in Australia - GRT Q&A Series

About the guest

Fiona is an accomplished senior executive and change facilitator delivering operational experience with technical competency to lead change and improve business results. Underpinned by a genuine care for people Fiona creates trusted relationships, inspires development and high performance and connects strategy with delivery to help unlock potential. Specialties: HSE, Sustainability & Risk Specialist / High Reliability/ Transformation & Change Agent/ High Performance Coach within Oil & Gas, Chemicals, Utilities, Mining, Transport and Rail

Topic of discussion: Evolution Mining – Australian Gold Company 

Gold mining in Australia is probably what many folks think of when mining is mentioned, due to the historical and pop culture representations of the gold rush in books, movies, and TV shows. 

Evolution Mining is a leading, growth-focused globally relevant gold company. It was created in late 2011 and operates five globally owned mines across Australia and Ontario, Canada. In addition, they hold an economic interest in the Ernest Henry copper-gold mine in Queensland. 

At Evolution Mining, they are passionate about their culture and values, which led us at Global Road Technology to reach out to their Vice President – Sustainability (HSE, Risk and Social Responsibility) Fiona Murfitt for a conversation in our GRT Q&A Series.

Our conversation with Fiona revolved around her experiences, ESG, health and safety, leadership lessons and her personal take on what is currently happening in the world. She is based in the Greater Sydney Area. 

Q1) Welcome to the GRT Q&A Series Fiona. It is an honour and pleasure to have you with us. Can you please tell us more about yourself and what your role as Vice President – Sustainability (HSE, Risk and Social Responsibility) entails? 

In recent years industry and broader stakeholders focus on what is now commonly known as ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) issues have been increasingly in the spotlight.

Sustainability means different things to different people, so companies must be clear about their purpose and where they want to have the most positive impact.

This aligns with the creation of Evolution’s Vice President of Sustainability role, which is positioned within Evolution’s executive leadership team. My portfolio oversees Safety, Health, Environment, Risk, Security and Social Responsibility portfolios across Australia and Canada.

My personal and professional ambition, driven by a personal experience of a workplace fatality in my family, is to help people go home better from work than how they arrived. 

My role supports the social licence of Evolution Mining. With a history of working within high-risk operations mainly within Oil & Gas and Mining, leading transformations for organisations such as Shell, DuPont and Viva Energy I am passionate about Sustainability. This incorporates the wellbeing and positive outcomes of people and communities where we operate. Evolution’s values are Safety, Respect, Excellence and Accountability. 

Q2) Can you please tell us more about Evolution Mining? Where are its operations based? 

Our story: In 2010, an opportunity was identified within the Australian gold mining sector by creating a new producer. Evolution’s first asset was a resource in North Queensland that others believed was not feasible to develop. Undeterred, our Executive Chairman and founder, Jake Klein, with the assistance of a small management team, pursued a series of bold and complex deals to form Evolution in November 2011 and successfully turned that initial resource at Mt Carlton into a sold operation, launching Evolution as a globally relevant gold miner, operating in Australia and Canada, aligned with our geopolitical strategy. 

We’ve evolved from a small company into a globally relevant gold mining business with a reputation of delivering value for all stakeholders. 

Q3) Health and Safety is your forte! How have you integrated other aspects such as environment, risk and social responsibility in the wider role you play at Evolution Mining?

Evolution’s commitment to sustainability is core to our business and drives our thinking about who we are and how we will be relevant in decades to come. Our sustainability vision (is to deliver long-term stakeholder value through safe, low-cost gold production in an environmentally and socially responsible way. It’s an integrated approach that is adaptive with People being at the centre of the response.

– The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact around the globe. Through strong collective leadership and management, Evolution has continued to operate safely through COVID-19 with no material impact on operations.

– We remain focussed on building a learning culture so that our people have greater understanding of the controls in place to keep them safe and healthy. We remain committed to continuing efforts to improve health and safety performance with a heavy focus on robust controls, increased field leadership and high-quality safety interactions. The focus on understanding and supporting holistic wellbeing includes psychological wellbeing of our people and those who live in the communities where our operation is also accelerating.

Business can now transform – and we can see signs that it is emerging. For us – we are also looking at our end of mine life management that may include pumped hydro and other renewables. Key to this is sustainability being integrated into everything we do – focussed on creating value where Sustainability is embedded into our thinking, design, project modelling, metrics, funding and overall stakeholder engagement.

Q4) You have worked across many industries including oil & gas, utilities, transport and rail and now mining. How has genuine care for people helped you foster trusted relationships? How have you unlocked potential in your teams? 

I have the belief that you should never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to help create positive change. Trust is essential in relationships and communities when you truly care about the impact you and the team can have, it unites people and can unlock something special.  

Q5) What challenges have you faced in your journey? How have you managed to overcome them and what lessons can you share about grit and resilience? 

This role is a deeply personal one for me.  I am grateful to have been supported across my career by people that today remain my friends. One of the biggest personal challenges have come from misalignment of values or loss of trust, but in many respects that has helped strengthen my resolve and better articulate what’s important. Of course, dealing with serious injury, illness and fatalities also has an impact, and this has helped shape my determination and ambition, that work can make you better and that we can all leave work better than how we arrived.  I do feel grateful for finding the team at Evolution – a quirky bunch of passionate and gifted people. 

Q6) Technical competency combined with operational experience has seen you lead change and improve business results. How have you managed to keep the momentum moving forward? What does it feel like being the go-to person and the human face behind HSE decisions? 

Collective leadership based on our values is how our team approaches decision-making. 

This describes the processes by which people all have something to bring and they come together to pursue change. Within strategic management processes, we take the approach that people who are values-driven will jointly envision what the world should be, make sense of their experiences and interactions, and shape their decisions and actions to produce desired results.

Based on our values we listen – we say, we do, we deliver.

Q7) In closing, what can we look forward to from you in the next decade? 

It’s such a bizarre landscape today, but I am excited that there is a chance that diversity can blossom, and we can start to see a change happening where we start to embrace people more fully on what they can contribute and protect and walk together with those that need a stronger voice. There is hope. Although, I write this off the back of the sad news in the USA this week where women’s basic rights appear up for debate and we are no closer to resolution in the Ukraine.   

But – Big change or small change, they all matter. Working within a community is that golden thread – it shows the connections between the land, people, and nature. So – my call to action is about care – and frankly its whatever you care about – as long as you care. Let’s change the narrative and start making a difference!

Find out more about Evolution Mining: http://www.evolutionmining.com.au

Keith Nare

Technical Head of Communications for GRT, Keith leads GRT's content strategy across various platforms, whilst coordinating internally to build the voice and opinions of the GRT team. Keith is a product of Nelson Mandela University and his PhD work focuses on Polymer and Physical Chemistry. He was a Research Associate at SANRAL in South Africa and later spent time as a Visiting Research Associate to NTEC at the University of Nottingham in the UK. He is a former Director of Communications for CALROBO in the USA.

Keith is passionate and enthusiastic about health and safety, sustainability, networking and finding synergy through conversations.