April 2017

The importance of the AusIMM Code of Ethics

  • By Matt Hadley, Senior Coordinator, Communications, AusIMM

Why all members should familiarise themselves with the AusIMM Code of Ethics

Along with the Royal Charter and By-Laws, the AusIMM Code of Ethics is one of the foundational documents governing all AusIMM members’ conduct and behaviour. As the Royal Charter and By-Laws have received significant attention in recent years due to the comprehensive review of both documents by the AusIMM Board, it is worth revisiting the AusIMM Code of Ethics to refresh members of its content and reiterate its importance as the document that guides the conduct of all AusIMM members.

What is a code of ethics?

Many professional disciplines have codes of ethics that govern behaviour and provide guidance to members of a particular profession. For instance, the Hippocratic Oath in medicine is one of the oldest and most well-known codes of ethics, while fields such as journalism and the military also have long-standing and highly recognisable ethical charters.

These codes provide the members of a particular profession with a list of values and behaviours that they must endeavour to adhere to when undertaking their duties. They also provide ruling bodies with a list of criteria by which they can hold their members accountable for the decisions they make and the behaviours they exhibit. In some cases, if a member of a profession is found to have breached the values outlined in the code of ethics, the ruling body may have grounds to discipline that member or expel them from the organisation or even the profession itself.

The AusIMM Code of Ethics

  1. The safety, health and welfare of the community shall be the prime responsibility of members of The AusIMM in the conduct of their professional activities.
  2. Members of The AusIMM shall deal with clients, colleagues and the community in a manner that upholds the principles of anti-discrimination, and of equity.
  3. Members of The AusIMM shall, on all occasions, act in a manner which upholds and enhances the honour, integrity, honesty and dignity of the profession.
  4. Members of The AusIMM shall perform work only in their areas of competence.
  5. Members of The AusIMM shall build their professional reputation on merit and performance, and shall not compete unfairly.
  6. Members of The AusIMM shall at all times apply their professional skill and knowledge in the interests of their employer or client, except that members shall under no circumstances compromise their professional and ethical standards.
  7. All statements made by a member of The AusIMM in a professional capacity shall be made objectively, truthfully and free of any influence which may compromise their professional judgment, and shall only be made within the member’s area of professional competence.
  8. Members of The AusIMM shall continue their professional development throughout their careers and shall actively assist and encourage those under their direction to also advance their knowledge and experience.
  9. Members of The AusIMM shall comply with all laws and government regulations relating to the minerals sector and shall keep up to date with relevant laws in jurisdictions in which they conduct business, and members dealing with public companies shall comply with the rules, regulations and practices governing such companies as are published by the relevant stock exchange from time to time.

What is the AusIMM Code of Ethics?

The purpose of the AusIMM Code of Ethics is ‘to commit members to uphold and enhance the honesty, honour, integrity and dignity of their professions, such that the members and their professions merit the highest esteem by the community.’

Upon admission to the Institute, all AusIMM members commit to the principles set out in the Code of Ethics, and they reconfirm that commitment each year when they renew their membership. As a result, all members should be familiar with the Code of Ethics to ensure that they are complying with it when undertaking work in the minerals industry.

The AusIMM Code of Ethics is deliberately broad so as to encompass all of the different minerals-related professions that make up the AusIMM and the many complex ethical situations that may arise in the day-to-day work of minerals professionals. While some ethical considerations will be easy for members to recognise and resolve (such as complying with the requirements of the JORC Code), others may fall into ethical grey areas that will require members to use their best judgement to ensure that they maintain their ethical standards. A great deal of responsibility is therefore placed on all AusIMM members to ensure that their conduct adheres to the Code of Ethics and meets the required standards set out by the AusIMM.

As the mining industry often has a significant impact on the communities in which it operates, ensuring that the health, safety and welfare of local populations are protected is one of the key provisions of the Code of Ethics. Not only will adhering to this provision be of benefit to the community, it will foster better relationships between the industry and the local population, which is of mutual benefit to all the important stakeholders.

Transparency is another key provision of the AusIMM Code of Ethics. All members are expected to behave in a transparent manner when engaged in work in the minerals industry, whether
it is in regards to potential conflicts of interest, communication with colleagues or clients or in matters related to fees or services.

Members are also required to respect the privacy of their clients and/or employers by preventing the dissemination of confidential material, proprietary information or trade secrets. However, members will not be in breach of the AusIMM Code of Ethics if they divulge confidential information that would protect the community from serious adverse consequences. This again highlights the central tenet of the AusIMM Code of Ethics that all members are primarily responsible for protecting the welfare of the community over all other considerations.

Why is the AusIMM Code of Ethics important?

The Code of Ethics is a fundamental part of being an AusIMM member and helps to uphold the reputation of the Institute and the mining industry as a whole. When an AusIMM member is working in the minerals industry, they are not only representing themselves and the company they work for, they are representing the Institute and the entire mining industry. If a member behaves in an unethical manner, their behaviour reflects poorly on the others in their profession and on all of the other members of the Institute.

The importance of the AusIMM’s Code of Ethics is highlighted by the serious repercussions that occur if a member is found to be in breach of the code. If a complaint is lodged against an AusIMM member with the Complaints Committee and it deems that it involves a breach of the AusIMM Code of Ethics, the matter is referred to the Ethics Committee. Under the AusIMM By-Laws, if a member is found to have engaged in unethical behaviour, the Ethics Committee has the power to reprimand the member, suspend them for up to 12 months or even expel them from the Institute.

Conclusion

The AusIMM Code of Ethics plays an important role in confirming the integrity and principles of the Institute. The high standing with which the AusIMM is regarded in the minerals industry is largely built on the reputation of its members, so it is every AusIMM members’ responsibility to ensure that their conduct meets the expected ethical standards. As the document that governs all members’ conduct and behaviour, you should familiarise yourself with the AusIMM Code of Ethics to ensure that it informs all of your decisions and actions in the minerals industry. The AusIMM Code of Ethics and additional information can be viewed at www.ausimm.com/ethics.

If you have doubts concerning an ethical issue that has arisen in the course of your work, we encourage you to contact the Institute for guidance. All communications regarding ethical issues will be treated with the strictest confidence.

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