An Interview with MD & CEO of Resolute Mining John Welborn – Dig Deep – The Mining Podcast

Welcome back to Dig Deep: The Mining Podcast with your…


Welcome back to Dig Deep: The Mining Podcast with your host Rob Tyson. In this episode, Rob is at the Mining and Money conference in London where he interviewed MD & CEO of Resolute Mining John Welborn. Their conversation takes them from John’s former career as a professional rugby player to his modern-day role as CEO of Resolute Mining. John talks with passion about leading the development of the first fully automated underground mine.


Key Takeaways


Transition from Professional Sport. It’s a difficult transition from playing professional rugby to business. One week you will have 40 thousand people cheering you and the next you are working 7 am until midnight in business. It’s tough to change career in that way. John spoke that having that profile as a sportsman helped him in his career, as an accountant, investment banker and as a CEO of a mining company.


What kills did you take from sport into your business career? I think mainly the benefit of focus. I was attracted to the tactical nature of rugby. Each position a specific different role, whether that’s the half-back or prop. In a mining company, we bring together similarly lots of different skill sets from geologists, engineers and financiers. There is a range of disciplines but in the same way that a rugby can be successful if they are brought together under one goal by their coach, business is the same and we are trying to do that with Resolute.


Transition from Finance to Mining. I had initially focused on banking but I was offered an opportunity to interview for a job a small zinc development company. All I could think was, what would I know about running a mining company? However, during the interview, I convinced myself that I was going to be able to run the company. My insolvency background helped, as the mining industry was going through a difficult moment at that point and we were to reposition the company in a different direction.


Starting In Resolute Mining. I was working in the same building as Resolute for many years. Working. It’s been a leading gold producing company for over 25 years. It was a pioneer for an Australian company going and working into Africa, in Ghana initially. John firstly joining a non-exec in and then became the CEO three years ago.


What is happening at Resolute Mining currently? Although the asset is the same in terms of mines since John first starter the team have been really successful in repositioning the company into a different space. We are launching the world’s first autonomous underground mine, we’ve been upgrading the infrastructure, solar hybrid power mission, invest in that mine. We have three mines that have ten-year lifespan, which sets us up nicely or the next phase.


Why the Automated Mine? I guess it’s a combination of study and ambition, and the desire to build the best mine possible. Mining is a high-risk business so everyone looks to low-risk solutions, which means people often do things they have always done in the past. We saw this as an opportunity to enhance the value of the mine through automation, processing infrastructure, and creating a solar power plant.


The study programme. We looked at different mines around the world to see how it has been for other companies who are retrofitting their mines for automation. We asked them why they went down this route. We were able to speak to people who had experience incorporate that into the feasibility studies. Designing the mine for the automation rather than retrofit is a key feature. We are confident we are going to save money. We believe that is where the industry is going and that it will increase opportunities for employment in the future and improve safety.


What advice would you give to people who are thinking about automation? Making sure that you understand your business. Mining is actually is a subcontracting business you risk share with other companies, buying the equipment an partnering them to run and maintain that equipment. When things are automated your relationship between your supplier changes. Equipment provider changes to a different kind of relationship. If you’re looking at automation, make sure you understand the roles of your partners. Make sure your investors are fully on board and recognise the changing skill set you will need in the company with automation.


What’s the future look like? After the successful launch of the automated mine, we will then be looking to spread our wings. Next stage will be discovering new places around the world. We have a history of discovering and building new mines successfully. We are looking to establish a portfolio of mines and provide value to our shareholders. We are focusing on Africa, as there are lots more exploration possibilities and governments are willing to partner with mines.


Why do you enjoy mining? The excitement for the exploration, the challenge of a competitive industry, complexity of the task involved, and one that is high risk, but very rewarding.


Who has been the most influential person on you?  At every stage, I have sought help and support from others. I learned a huge amount from Ian Millness my first chairman who was one of the most successful Australian entrepreneurs. I’m a great follower of Mark Bristow and the Rangold story. He is a highly influential figure.


Best Moments

‘Learned an appreciation of other cultures, through learning French playing rugby.’

‘Benefit of focus.’

‘Study and ambition, and the desire to build the best mind possible.’

‘Automation came from trying to build the best mine possible.’

‘We’ve had to make a leap of faith.’

‘The saving for us is not salaries, it’s productivity.’

‘We will be seeing automation into underground mines.’

‘The mining industry is a magic act; we turn dirt into bullion.’


About The Host

Rob Tyson is an established recruiter in the mining and quarrying sector and decided to produce the “Dig Deep” The Mining Podcast to provide valuable and informative content around the mining industry. He has a passion and desire to promote the industry and the podcast aims to offer the mining community an insight to people’s experiences and careers covering any mining discipline, giving the listeners helpful advice and guidance on industry topics.

Rob is the Founder and Director of Mining International Ltd, a leading global recruitment and headhunting consultancy based in the UK specialising in all areas of mining across the globe from the first world to third world countries from Africa, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Australia. We source, headhunt and discover new and top talent through a targeted approach and search methodology and have a proven track record in sourcing and positioning exceptional candidates into our clients’ organisation in any mining discipline or level. Mining International provides a transparent, informative and trusted consultancy service to our candidates and clients to help them develop their careers and business goals and objectives in this ever-changing marketplace.

About The Guest

John Welborn is MD & CEO of Resolute Mining who are developing gold mines in Australia and Mali and have portfolio of gold development and exploration projects in Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, Australia and Cote D’Ivoire. He has a colourful career, starting out as an international professional rugby player playing rugby in Australia and France and representing the Wallabies before retiring and going into the finance world before moving into mining. We met John at the Mines & Money London Conference where he discusses his journey and explains how they are developing the first fully automated underground mining operation in the world at their Syama operation in Mali.



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