31 May 2022
A little over 40 years ago, Paul Searson was offered a job with the IT department of the Mt Newman Mining company.
The latest computer tech at the time was a 3270 PC which had 512kb of RAM and 1MB floppy disk drive and could emulate a terminal to the IBM mainframe.
“In those days, the IBM mainframe took up half a floor in Mt Newman house in Perth, had 4MB of RAM and banks of removable hard disks,” laughed Paul as he reflected on the early days of working on St George’s Terrace in the Perth CBD.
Paul studied science, computing science and an MBA and in 1990, he moved from IT into the BHP planning and analysis team, conducting strategic planning and investment evaluation for the iron ore asset. He also spent two years with BHP Minerals in the office in San Francisco.
When the Californian office closed, he moved back to Perth to head up the planning and analysis team before moving to the iron ore growth projects team, working on the series of Rapid Growth Projects.
Paul has been buying and selling nickel since 2007 – leading Nickel West’s negotiations for sales and purchases with third parties in the Goldfields region.
“Two years after WMC was acquired, I moved into what had become known as Nickel West,” reflected Paul.
“As far as the work was concerned – it was diverse and exciting. As a business Nickel West was complicated and there were lots of opportunities to make a difference and have an impact.”
Paul is excited about the long-term future of Nickel West.
“The battery minerals market is a very exciting growth story. It is a once in a generational revolution in an entire industry,” said Paul.
“There’s a very good photo of a street in the US. The street is filled with horses and carts, and just a single car. In ten years that street was full of cars with a single horse and cart, and I can see that happening here with electric vehicles displacing internal combustion vehicles.”
“I truly believe that we have an exciting future. With the nickel price going up, exploration has restarted in the Goldfields – and when you look, you will find! Some of the mines that closed with restart and some new ones will open up. And that’s what I enjoy – shaping the long-term future of the nickel industry.”
Paul has seen some big changes over 40 years, but says that being part of the ‘Big Australian’ does provide lots of opportunities.
“At any time in my history at BHP that I got tired of what I was doing and wanted a change – something has come up. That’s a huge advantage in working for a large, diverse company. Sometimes you will look and sometimes the opportunities will seek you.
“Being in marketing gives you a lot of opportunities using customer relationships and market intelligence. The key is an ability to understand your customer and the technical capabilities of the business – and marry those two together.
“I don’t know what’s coming next in my career but I am excited about Kambalda restarting, Mincor coming back online and the huge pipeline of projects ahead of Nickel West. I’m part of the BHP family now. I was married whilst with BHP. All my children were born while I have been at BHP, and now two of my kids work for Nickel West. It’s definitely become a family business!”
Congratulations on your 40 years Paul. It’s exciting to consider what the future holds for Nickel West when you eventually hit the 50 year milestone!