The Professional Conduct and Ethics Committee’s report on their work upholding compliance with the AusIMM Code of Ethics and professional codes during 2018
AusIMM promotes the highest professional and ethical standards of its members through a strong focus on professional ethics and best practice implementation of professional codes.
Under the AusIMM By-Laws, all AusIMM members are bound by the AusIMM Code of Ethics and other Board approved codes, regulations and directives including the JORC and VALMIN codes when acting in certain capacities as a resources industry professional. These codes serve to protect communities, members and the profession, and provide professional reporting and valuation systems that give the community and financial markets confidence in our industry.
Members, upon admission, commit to the principles set out in the Code of Ethics and reconfirm that commitment when renewing their membership in each calendar year. In this way, AusIMM continues to ensure its position as a trusted and representative voice for resources professionals.
At its meeting on 1 November 2018, the AusIMM Board approved revised Professional Conduct Regulations, prepared by a Compliance Review Taskforce. The taskforce was led by Dr Peter Lilly FAusIMM in consultation with members and in line with legal advice. The revised regulations came into effect on 1 January 2019 and apply to all members, outlining the complaints and ethics review processes for upholding professional conduct standards in the resources sector.
The Professional Conduct and Ethics Committees
The Professional Conduct and Ethics Committees are jointly responsible for investigating and determining the outcome of complaints. The Professional Conduct and Ethics processes operate through regulations approved by the AusIMM Board. The Professional Conduct Committee (formerly known as the Complaints Committee) investigates each complaint received. If the Professional Conduct Committee determines that a significant breach of the Code of Ethics may have occurred, the complaint will be referred to the Ethics Committee for review.
The complaints process is designed to ensure that members are held accountable for any conduct that breaches the Code of Ethics, the By-Laws or professional Code obligations, and that members are appropriately counselled and/or sanctioned to ensure the integrity of the profession and AusIMM is upheld. The process includes an avenue for appeal.
AusIMM aims to ensure that professional ethics are prominent topics in the conversations that happen among members.
The complaints process involves judgement by peers. Penalties that can be imposed on AusIMM members where a breach of the Code of Ethics and/or professional Codes is confirmed include:
- caution or warning
- mediation and/or counselling
- further education
- membership suspension or expulsion from the Institute
- publication of details of the breach, including public naming of the professional found to be in breach.
All deliberations of the Professional Conduct Committee and Ethics Committee are strictly confidential. The identity of the complainant is not disclosed to the person(s) about whom the complaint has been made or to any parties not involved in the process of determining the validity of the complaint. The identity of the complainant and respondent remains confidential, except in the following cases: where the complainant agrees to reveal their name to the respondent when necessary to pursue the complaint; where the Ethics Committee has resolved that notice of a breach be published, in which case the name of the respondent may be made public; and in the unlikely event that the matter advances to legal proceedings independent of the AusIMM process, where the identity of the complainant may become known as part of the discovery of documents process, or if AusIMM is directed by a court (or other legally empowered person) to make such information available.
In 2015, 17 complaint matters were received. This figure increased to 24 in 2016 then to 49 in 2017 (including 40 JORC Code complaints) representing the largest number of complaints in a year to date.
In 2018, 15 complaints were received with ten citing breaches of the JORC Code (one in combination with a Code of Ethics breach) and five citing breaches of the Code of Ethics.
Of the ten JORC matters, two are in progress and unable to be reported at this time. The remaining eight cases are summarised as follows:
- Two matters were dismissed by the Professional Conduct Committee. This occurred where the complaint could either not be substantiated or corrective action had already been initiated to address the non-material issue(s) of concern.
- One matter was referred to the Ethics Committee.
- Five cases were formally accepted with the complaints subsequently upheld. Respondents were issued a formal warning and urged to faithfully apply the JORC Code in future work. In each case a combination of breaches were alleged as follows:
- Case 1: Clause 42
- Case 2: Clause 19
- Case 3: Clause 21 (and Code of Ethics)
- Case 4: Table 1
- Case 5: Clause 49.
In relation to the five Code of Ethics matters, the following findings were made:
- Case 1: The Professional Conduct Committee was satisfied with the explanation provided by the respondent and determined that were no ongoing issues or problems. The case was dismissed.
- Case 2: In the absence of substantive documentation from the complainant and further to a satisfactory submission from the respondent, the case was dismissed.
- Case 3: This matter was withdrawn by the complainant.
- Cases 4 and 5: Both matters were dismissed as the documentation supplied did not adequately support the allegations made.
During 2018, two separate compliance matters from 2016 were the subject of court proceedings and were subsequently resolved.
During 2018, the Professional Conduct Committee referred two cases from 2017 and one matter from 2018 to the Ethics Committee for investigation and determination. These can be summarised as follows:
- one complaint was under consideration by the Ethics Committee with the respondent subsequently resigning their membership
- one complaint was dismissed due to lack of supporting evidence
- one complaint was upheld with a two-month suspension of membership applied.
Points considered in relation to these various cases included:
- that it is the responsibility of a company to ensure that a public announcement is sighted, agreed to and signed off by the Competent Person before release
- that a Competent Person should ensure that distances between points of observation when assessing a Mineral Resource are appropriate for the type of resource being assessed, that data used are consistent with points of observation, and that any assumptions made during resource estimation and valuation are sufficiently transparent to allow assessment of the associated risk.
2018 AusIMM Professional Conduct Committee:
Mike Spreadborough FAusIMM (Chair)
Terry Briggs FAusIMM
Fran Burgess FAusIMM(CP)
Steve Gemell FAusIMM(CP)
Ingvar Kirchner FAusIMM
Don Larkin FAusIMM (retired November 2018)
Deborah Lord FAusIMM
Colin Roberts FAusIMM(CP) (from November 2018)
2018 AusIMM Ethics Committee:
Eric Grimsey HonFAusIMM(CP)(Chair)
David Abbott FAusIMM(CP)
Tony Cameron FAusIMM
Greg Chalmers FAusIMM(CP)
Gerry Fahey FAusIMM
Ian Goddard HonFAusIMM(CP)
Janine Herzig FAusIMM (CP)(AusIMM Board representative)
Stephen Munro FAusIMM(CP)
Brian White HonFAusIMM(CP)