Michelle Elvy is happy to bring a little bit of boring to her newly created role as she looks to put her stamp on Rio Tinto in Weipa.
The new general manager of bauxite, replacing the GM roles at Weipa and Gove, says that safety and stability will be pillars of her leadership.
“There has been a lot of change in leadership roles, especially in the bauxite business and I’m looking for stability,” Ms Elvy said.
“We want to get people out of acting roles and into permanent positions, creating a stable leadership team so that we can move to a safe, stable production.”
Ms Elvy joins Rio Tinto for the first time in her career, having spent the best part of the last decade with BHP.
She said she was attracted to the bauxite position because it was the first time working with the commodity, first time in Cape York, and provided the opportunity to be part of a community.
“It’s really not that remote,” she said with a laugh.
“I’m really excited about being part of a community again. I grew up in a town smaller than Weipa.”
Ms Elvy has worked in the coal and copper industries and was most recently helping BHP recover its position in Brazil following the devastating collapse of a dam at Samarco.
“That was quite challenging,” she said of both her role in Brazil and commuting to and from Australia.
There are big differences between Rio Tinto and BHP, she said, but she was confident of getting up to speed quickly.
“The systems are sort of similar but all the words are different,” the GM said.
“I spent my first week getting up to speed, going through all the inductions, understanding the social value framework and understanding how Rio Tinto manages safety.
“It’s important to not only understand the intent but how the systems are designed.
“It’s a really large role across Weipa and Gove.
“Gove has a closure component, while Weipa has a sustainability component.”
Ms Elvy said she would be based out of Weipa and spend time at Gove each month.
“I’ll spend between one and two weeks per month in Gove and fly to Brisbane on an as-needed basis,” she said.
A keen runner, Ms Elvy said Weipa locals were likely to see her at parkrun from time to time and most definitely at the Weipa Running Festival.
“I’ve already flicked the flyer to my cousins who are keen runners,” she said.
Weipa locals hoping to see big changes from management shouldn’t hold their breath.
Ms Elvy said she was across some of the big issues facing Weipa, including normalisation and a shortage of child care, but wasn’t afraid to say that they were not at the top of her priority list.
“The only thing I want to say (about normalisation) is that it is a tri-party agreement and it’s going to take a while. It’s not one of the first things I’m seeking to understand,” she said.
“We’ve got the WCCCA’s 20-year anniversary this year and there are some things I’m trying to understand quicker.”
Asked what her priorities were, Ms Elvy was ready to fire off with a list.
“The things that I’m really looking at for a start is safety first. With safety and stableness comes production … doing that in a reliable and predictable manner,” she said.
“Capability is another. We need to make sure our people have a strong skill set and help with their development.
“And culture. I want to build respect for the workplace, respect for the people, the environment and our stakeholders.”
Ms Elvy will be joined by her husband in Weipa, while their son is in Brisbane studying at university.
This article appeared in Cape York Weekly, 22 March 2021.