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Jackie Donald on her career path, lessons learnt and global trends in mining

Meet Jackie Donald, a senior associate from our global mining practice and one of the delegates attending the global Mining Indaba 2024 conference this year, which is focused on the development of mining interests in Africa.

Please tell us about yourself and share highlights of your background and interests

I am a corporate transactional lawyer, with a mining and resources focus. Over my career, I have had the opportunity to gain broad corporate and commercial experience working in various roles and sectors, having worked both in private practice and in a General Counsel role. In terms of career highlights, it all comes down to people. During my career, I’ve been very lucky to work with some amazingly talented people who have acted as mentors and role models. As my career has progressed, in turn, one aspect of my role that I love is being able to help mentor and guide others through their career journey. 

I am a keen shopper and like nothing more than a browse around the shops, with my sweet spot being unique stores or markets with handmade or unusual offerings.  I also have two children who keep me very busy outside of work and teach me something new every day.  

What motivated you to pursue a career in the global mining sector and the legal profession?

When I moved to Perth, Australia, there was no escaping mining! At its core, Perth is a city built on mining and resources and there is a real mining buzz about the city, from the airport that is full of FIFO workers in their hi-vis to the plethora of wealthy investors that have made their fortunes from the industry. Perth is well known globally as a respected mining hub and is a fantastic place to base a career in global mining given the number of both established and up-and-coming mining and resources companies based here. 

Shifting focus to mining and resources was a natural transition for me as all the experience I’d gained as a junior private equity lawyer was equally relevant with a mining focus overlayed. Perth is the perfect example of the mining sector as a potential driver of economic growth, social progress and environmental stewardship, and working in the mining sector allows me to use my legal skills and knowledge to support and enhance its positive impacts.

My initial motivation to become a lawyer is far removed from where I am now! My legal ambitions stemmed from reading the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”, which I’m sure has been the inspiration for many legal careers. My plan was to become a criminal lawyer and fight for justice for the innocent! Alas, the best laid plans…

You are attending the global Mining Indaba 2024 conference, which is focused on the development of mining interests in Africa, this year. What are your main goals and expectations for this event?

I am really looking forward to attending the global Mining Indaba 2024 conference and having the opportunity to network with others in the global mining community and explore new opportunities for collaboration. It will be interesting to learn from the best practices, innovations, and challenges of leading mining companies, projects, and stakeholders in Africa and how they are addressing environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, community engagement and digital transformation.  Equally, the conference is a fantastic opportunity for the A&O global mining team to showcase our own expertise, achievements and capabilities, and how we can assist the African and global mining community to deliver a shared vision for sustainable and responsible mining in Africa and globally. It will also be interesting to get a greater understanding of the risks, challenges and opportunities posed by the changing global and regional contexts, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery, the energy transition and climate change, the geopolitical and trade dynamics, and the rising expectations and demands of the mining stakeholders.

This year, Mining Indaba will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, a vibrant and diverse city and country. How do you relate to or appreciate the host location and its culture?

Like Perth, Cape Town is also home to many leading mining companies, making it an ideal place to exchange ideas, insights, and best practices. Cape Town is a beautiful and vibrant city, with a rich history, a diverse culture and stunning natural scenery. South Africa is a key player in the African and global mining industry, facing both opportunities and challenges in terms of governance, sustainability and development. I value the chance to learn from, and contribute to, the South African mining sector, as well as to take a deep dive into the broader social, economic and environmental issues that affect the country and the continent.

How would you explain this year’s theme “Embracing the power of positive disruption: A bold new future for African mining” in your own words and what does it mean to you?

To me, this year’s theme reflects the need for the mining industry in Africa to adapt to the changing global and local contexts, and to seize the opportunities that arise from innovation, collaboration and social responsibility. A bold new future for African mining means envisioning and pursuing a more sustainable, inclusive and competitive industry that can contribute to the continent’s development and prosperity.

What global mining themes or issues are you seeing this year? 

I am seeing ESG issues generally, specifically the transition to a low-carbon economy and the role of mining in supplying critical minerals and metals for clean energy, electric vehicles and digital technologies.

I am also seeing issues around technological advances and how these bring opportunities for positive disruption in the mining industry. The transformation and digitalisation of the mining industry, driven by technological advancements, automation, artificial intelligence and data analytics, and the opportunities these new technologies offer for improved efficiency, productivity, and improved safety and environmental outcomes, is a current issue as well.

What advice or lessons learned do you have to share with others starting their career?

Be curious, be kind and be you.

For me, being curious (some may say nosy!) has fostered many opportunities and put me on a continuous learning journey that has kept me engaged and motivated throughout my career. I have a genuine interest in my clients, their businesses and the issues they are facing, which allows me to provide commercially-focused advice.

In terms of kindness, it’s not just about kindness to others (that should go without saying) but kindness to yourself. Try not to let mistakes, setbacks or criticisms discourage you.  See them as learning opportunities that build your resilience and help you grow.

In the words of Oscar Wilde, be yourself because everyone else is taken!

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