Mystery in the exploration boardroom

THIS week Allan Trench looks at wiring a boardroom for exploration success – and finds that systematic research into the matter is far from definitive, actually non-existent.
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Staff Reporter

A favourite television show of Strictly Boardroom is the Stephen Fry-hosted QI series, where QI stands for “quite interesting”.

QI is a comedy panel show that has achieved great popularity – it is now into its 11th year.

The game is somewhat quirky but at the same time very insightful.

Panels of contestants each week aim to make “quite interesting” observations on a vast variety of different subjects – and score points for doing so.

One specific aspect of the game in recent seasons is that each panellist is pre-armed with a special card that can be played only once during the show – a joker of sorts.

This special card reads simply “nobody knows” – with the card to be played by the panellist in response to a question where they believe there is no proven scientific answer to a particular conundrum.

Fans of the show will recall that some of the facts revealed on QI are very interesting indeed.

In the majority of circumstances of course, the facts of the matter are also extremely obscure too.

Did you know, for example, that good decision-making skill is enhanced when a person desperately needs to visit the toilet? That is, the call of nature somehow focuses the mind in more ways than one.

Rational thought is made all the easier by that other pressing commitment: quite interesting indeed.

As to whether any company board has made use of this fact to improve its boardroom decision-making is not yet a matter of public record!

Now to the quite interesting (actually make that very interesting) subject of “wiring” a mineral exploration boardroom for success. How is that done exactly?

First consider the following questions:

  • Is it better to have a geologist as an exploration company managing director or someone with a commerce or legal background?
  • Should the chair be a lawyer, or an accountant – or a geologist again– or does it make no difference whatsoever?
  • What is the optimum size for an exploration board that typically accompanies business success –three, four, five, perhaps more?
  • What is the right mix of executives to non-executives?
  • What is the optimum experience profile for a mining board – a mix of experienced heads and young guns, or a specific weighting towards either the former or even perhaps the latter?

If you responded that “nobody knows” to all the above questions then you would be absolutely right.

That is, while everyone has an individual opinion on what makes for an effective mineral exploration or mining sector boardroom – with enlightening anecdotes as supportive evidence – when it comes to systematic research, the work just hasn’t been done as yet.

As Stephen Fry would say, the answer is simply that nobody knows!

Hopefully this curious situation will one day be remedied.

Good hunting.

Allan Trench is a professor of mineral economics at Curtin Graduate School of Business and professor (value and risk) at the Centre for Exploration Targeting, University of Western Australia, a non-executive director of several resource sector companies and the Perth representative for CRU Strategies, a division of independent metals and mining advisory CRU Group (