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Bruce Hebblewhite


Professor of Mining Engineering at University of NSW, Sydney, Australia

Years in Industry:

Years in SME:

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What led you to join SME? For how long have you been a member?

I joined SME as a student member in 1970, so 50 years as a member. The initial motivation was purely monetary - to be able to access so many good text/reference books and publications at a good price to assist in my mining studies. The SME bookshop is still a great benefit, but then there is so much more that SME has to offer…

What initially led you to pursue your profession? Why have you stayed in your profession?

I come from a long line of engineers in my family, so I was headed in the direction of engineering early on. Then, with a real interest in geology, and a real boom in mining in Australia in 1969/70 when I went from school to university, mining engineering was an obvious career choice – and I have never looked back!

How has being an SME member enhanced or shaped your career?

It has enabled me to really recognize the international nature of our industry and our profession. You can no longer just operate within national boundaries. Mining is a truly international industry – whether it be because of company ownership, source of personnel, source of technologies and of course, export markets for mineral commodities. So being an SME member encourages you to take an international perspective and take the national blinkers off. I really encourage others to do the same!

Favorite SME member benefit(s) to take advantage of?

The networking available through SME meetings is by far the greatest benefit, in my mind. The annual meetings are such a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, but more importantly, to meet new people from all over the US and all over the world. SME is truly an international organization now, and hopefully in the future will do even more on the international stage in recognition of this.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of your job?

In the mining university world today, by far the greatest challenge is attracting young people to consider and take on a career in mining. Unfortunately, through poor and mis-informed media coverage and past mining accidents/issues/past reputation the odds are stacked against us now with mining not front-and-centre in young people’s minds as a career option. We have to change this. We have to inform and excite young people of today about the technology opportunities in modern mining; the environmental responsibilities and achievements; and the social experiences available across the world.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspects of your job?

Seeing young people get passionate about mining and then go out into the industry and achieve great things!

Who has been key in shaping your career, and how?

Many great mentors – from both the academic world and the industry world. People who have demonstrated that their heart and their true commitment is behind their actions.

In what ways have you seen the industry change since you first began your career?

I could go on for a long time on this question but will not. As a comment, I think there is more change in the current decade than we have seen in the industry in the preceding three or four decades. This is based on many factors, but includes – huge, multi-disciplinary waves of change in technologies and approaches to mining problems; dramatic economies of scale in some mining operations – but also some “small is good” operations surviving and doing well; and then a much more adverse societal background within which the industry has to operate, if a true “license to operate” is to be maintained.

Where do you think the future of the industry is headed in the next decade?

More of the same in terms of rate of change in all of the areas listed in Q8 above.