Despite having won the Liebherr Lifetime Achievement Award, EMR Capital chairman Owen Hegarty is not done multiplying the benefits of Australia’s mining industry.
EMR Capital chairman Owen Hegarty may have been honoured with the Liebherr Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Australian Mining Prospect Awards, but it is clear he still has a lot left to do in his career.
While Hegarty is “pleased, delighted, happy, humbled, chuffed and honoured” to be recognised with the award, he believes “the usual story with these things is, it’s never over.”
“I love the industry. It is a race without a finish. The best is yet to come,” Hegarty tells Australian Mining.
Hegarty recalls being a fresh university graduate when he started with one of the world’s most prominent metals and mining corporations, Rio Tinto.
He worked with the mining giant for 25 years, reaching a pinnacle with the company when he became managing director of its copper and gold businesses.
“Straight from university, I was able to work in all countries, all commodities, all companies,” Hegarty, looking back on his time at Rio Tinto, tells Australian Mining.
“I had a terrific background there (at Rio Tinto). I was very lucky to join such a progressive company that was growing worldwide, and to deal with wonderful, wonderful people (and) stay up to date with shifts in technology, operating practices and markets. I’m very lucky to have that sort of grounding.”
Beyond Rio Tinto, Hegarty founded copper-gold mining and exploration company, Oxiana, which would later merge with Zinifex to create OZ Minerals in 2008.
Though Hegarty describes the experience as being “plunged from the big end of town to the small end of town,” it was from this humble point that the “the mighty Ox” emerged – from a company worth a few million dollars to one valued at more than a few billion.
Hegarty achieved this notable feat alongside people he worked with at Rio Tinto and other groups over many years.
“An overnight success that has taken 15 years or thereabouts,” Hegarty says, laughing.
“We know the region, the rocks and the projects. The really hard part is putting the money together at the junior end of the market.”
Hegarty attributes Oxiana’s great success to the good people, vision and drive of the company, as their “lives depended on it.”
“You’ve put people together to work with you and rely on you. There are investors who put in their money. They are depending on you. They trust you to perform,” Hegarty says.
“It’s the trust that other people put in you that you’re able to go out there and do those things. That’s what keeps me going – the responsibility to perform. I’ve been lucky enough to have the background and experience to be able to keep doing it.”
Hegarty, who now spends the majority of his time in Hong Kong, is not only motivated by his sense of accountability. His love of the mining industry is also a fire that fuels his 40-year-plus career.
Australia has serious mining and minerals processing competitive advantage – world class operations, technology, people and capability generally, according to Hegarty.
Its natural advantage is not only limited to operating mines – it also extends to minerals processing and global exports, and the building of a “terrific” industry of mining equipment, technology and services (METS) organisations.
“I’ve always been a great supporter and cheerleader of the mining industry. Australian mining is a world leader, and our people, our companies, our expertise and our codes of conduct have proliferated the world,” Hegarty, a former vice chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, says.
“The mining industry has a serious, competitive comparative advantage all over Australia.”
And the Australian mining industry’s story doesn’t end there, Hegarty says. It will also prop up the “super-highway sustainable growth of prosperity” that China, India, Indonesia and the undeveloped world want to jump on to.
The outlook remains strong. Hegarty adds: “We believe we are in for multiple decades of commodity demand growth as China, India, Indonesia and the rest of the developing world are all looking to join that super-highway of economic growth and sustainable prosperity.”
Today, in his role as executive chairman of EMR Capital, Hegarty selects and invests in mine operations that have a potential for significant improvement.
With $5 billion worth of assets under EMR’s management, Hegarty is well aware of the cyclic nature of the industry.
He puts special care on having the right people, acquiring the right assets, delivering mine improvements and increasing its value for the next owners.
Despite his growing list of accolades, Hegarty is evidently humbled to have won the Liebherr Lifetime Achievement Award.
He believes it is the best recognition he can get – coming from his own industry.
This article also appears in the December edition of Australian Mining.