27/05/2010 - 00:00

Changing environmental views timely for Outback Ecology

27/05/2010 - 00:00

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ENVIRONMENTAL consultancy Outback Ecology is one of the 2010 Rising Stars award winners.

Changing environmental views timely for Outback Ecology

ENVIRONMENTAL consultancy Outback Ecology is one of the 2010 Rising Stars award winners.

Outback Ecology was founded in 1990 with the aim of introducing environmental reform to the mining industry.

The company’s success can be measured by its client base, which numbers 90 and includes some of the world’s biggest mining companies, including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Chevron, Atlas Iron, Newmont, and Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines.

Founded by Harley Lacy and incorporated in 1996, Outback now employs 42 professional science staff and six support staff. The company has eight semi-autonomous strategic business units, or service groups.

Areas of expertise include: mine closure and closure systems; soils, tailings and landforms; environmental approvals and impact assessment; environmental management, compliance and audit; rehabilitation monitoring and completion; aquatic ecology; flora; and fauna.

A consistently high level of environmental concern, which has been raised by the mining industry and society as a whole is, according to Mr Lacy, responsible for the company’s success.

“The evolving concern about environmental impact by society at large and the positive response by the mining industry across Australia to that concern has coincided with our development and growth. We have indeed been in the right place at the right time,” he said.

Mr Lacy observed an urgent need for environmental reform in the mining industry during his early 20s when he worked on the Yeelirrie trial mine.

He noticed the mine sites were very dusty, often polluted, with high volumes of rubbish and associated problems.

It was to one such mine site, Dominion Mining, developed 10 miles from Mr Lacy’s homestead in Meekatharra, that he approached the manager and offered a measure of environmental consultation.

“They had little or no help to address environmental issues,” he said.

“When I approached the mine manager at the Meekatharra site, David Milton, in 1990, to start working on these environmental matters, they allowed me to start research work focused on rehabilitation of the waste landforms, and Outback Ecology started.“

Outback has evolved a unique internal funding model with minimal external borrowings, whereby 50 per cent of annual profits available for distribution are retained in the business as ‘deferred distribution’ to fund growth. It expects a 20 per cent compound growth per annum over the next five years and has a cash reserve of more than $1 million.

“We were and are funded by internal investment by myself predominantly, and future growth will be funded by our model of investment by the owners themselves,’’ Mr Lacy said.

‘‘The board will decide – if this model is to be supplemented as we develop, and as we need to address capital requirements.”

New owners will be incorporated into the company after an employee ownership scheme commences from July 1 to transfer ownership from the managing director to employees that have worked for outback for two or more years.

Mr Lacy said the new ownership scheme would act to support the sustainability of a the company, retain the best staff as owners, and establish people with a stake in their own future to succeed him and the other senior people over time.

 

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