The AusIMM Complaints and Ethics Committees’ report on their work monitoring compliance with the AusIMM Code of Ethics and professional codes during 2017
The 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, any other Board-approved codes, regulation and directives and the JORC and VALMIN codes when acting in certain professional capacities. These codes serve to protect communities, members and the profession, and provide reporting and valuation systems that give the community and financial markets confidence in our sector.
Members, upon admission, commit to the principles set out in the Code of Ethics and reconfirm that commitment when renewing their membership each calendar year. In this way, the AusIMM continues to ensure its position as the trusted voice of resources professionals.
The AusIMM Complaints and Ethics Committees
The AusIMM Complaints and Ethics Committees are jointly responsible for investigating and determining the outcome of complaints. The Complaints and Ethics processes operate through regulations approved by the AusIMM Board. The Complaints Committee investigates each complaint received. If the Complaints 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 the AusIMM is upheld. The process includes avenues for appeal.
The AusIMM aims to ensure that professional ethics are prominent topics in the conversations that happen amongst 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 may include:
- mediation and/or counselling
- further education
- membership suspension or expulsion from the Institute
- publication of details of the breach.
All deliberations of the Complaints 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 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 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 the 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. There was a significant increase in the number of complaints lodged in 2017 with 49 matters submitted – the largest number of complaints in a year to date.
Forty complaints were submitted citing breaches to the JORC code. Of these, seven are still in progress with outcomes unable to be reported at this time; however, the remaining cases are summarised as follows:
- Ten complaints were ultimately dismissed by the Complaints Committee. In one instance the complaint cited a non-AusIMM member and was unable to be investigated as it fell beyond the scope and remit of the Complaints Committee. The remaining nine complaints were investigated consistent with approved process and procedure, with respondents invited to consider the complaint submitted and respond with relevant information and advice. On the basis of these submissions, the Complaints Committee determined to dismiss the complaint as the complaint could either not be substantiated or corrective action had already been initiated to address the non-material issue(s) of concern. In all instances, the Complaints Committee was genuinely encouraged by the effort made by respondents to engage positively and proactively with the process.
- Sixteen complaints, while subject to usual investigation process, were not progressed, with respondents urged to exercise greater care in the future application of the JORC Code. In these cases, respondents were alerted to the obligation of the Complaints Committee to investigate, evaluate and determine outcomes for all matters referred for its consideration. These cases involved clauses 25 and 33 of the JORC Code, and were deemed to not constitute a material breach of the JORC Code. The issue of these complaints involve the application of appropriate rounding and significant figures in reporting. As a result of these complaints, the AusIMM has recommended to JORC that the guidance associated with clauses 25 and 33 be reviewed given a systematic misapplication within the industry. To this end, respondents were encouraged to participate in professional development programs to enhance their knowledge with respect to this aspect of the code.
- The remaining seven cases were formally accepted with the complaints subsequently upheld. Respondents were issued a formal warning/caution and urged to faithfully apply the JORC Code in future work.
Five complaints were submitted alleging VALMIN breaches. One case is continuing and is unable to be reported on at this time. The other four complaints alleged a failure to disclose the cost of providing a Public Report. In all cases, respondents were co-operative and quick to take corrective action. The Complaints Committee determined that while a breach was found in each case, there was no intention to mislead. Respondents were urged to access the 2015 VALMIN Code Roadshow video recording (available to members free of charge) to support their better understanding of, and compliance with, the VALMIN Code.
Four complaints were received alleging breaches to the AusIMM Code of Ethics. One complaint alleged conduct unbecoming a member but was unable to be progressed given a lack of substantive evidence supporting the allegations put for investigation.
Of the three remaining Code of Ethics complaints:
- One was not accepted as the documentation at the centre of the complaint had been removed from public view. However, the Complaints Committee considered it appropriate to remind the member of obligations under the AusIMM Code of Ethics.
- One complaint was not progressed because material referred to in the complaint was not supplied to the committee for consideration despite repeated requests. The complainant was advised that the matter could not be accepted or progressed in the absence of this material as it was considered key to the investigation.
- One complaint was not progressed as the committee considered that supporting documentation did not adequately provide evidence of the allegations made, and the complainant was unable to supply additional material for consideration.
During 2017, the Ethics Committee considered an appeal against a Complaint Committee finding made in 2016. This involved breaches to JORC Clauses 22, 49 and Table 1. The appeal was unsuccessful.
The Complaints Committee referred four 2016 matters to the Ethics Committee for investigation and determination in 2017:
- One case alleged that a member accepted a contract that involved work outside his area of competence. The complaint was dismissed through lack of evidence, but the member was warned to exercise caution in the future when undertaking self-assessment related to project/role competencies and to ensure that the environmental and occupational health and safety requirements of any project undertaken are fully understood and satisfied.
- One case involving the estimation of a mineral resource by a member is currently subject to legal action with an outcome pending.
- One case resulted in the suspension of a member for four months and of another member for six months for non-compliance with the 2015 VALMIN Code, through use of in situ values in the valuation of a rare earth project. The AusIMM Board endorsed the recommendation of the Ethics Committee that both respondents be publicly named.
- One case continues to be under active consideration by the Ethics Committee.
The Complaints and Ethics Committees also continued to actively support the work of the AusIMM Compliance Review Taskforce in 2017, with valuable advice and input made to the review of compliance processes, procedures and draft regulations.