Tag Archives: innovation

Golden Gecko Awards 2012

The Golden Gecko Award is the most prestigious award for environmental practitioners working in industry in Western Australia. It is an initiative of the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP), and one that recognises “leading practice and innovation in environmental management”.

The last time I attended the Award ceremony was back in 2010, when I was representing Crosslands Resources. We won the award that year, along with  Phoenix Environmental, for innovative research into the effects of vibration on the shield back trapdoor spider, Idiosoma nigrum. I remember being so proud of the entire team for just getting shortlisted. I crossed my fingers, arms and legs and hoped for the best as the awards were being announced. As Crosslands was named the Golden Gecko Award winner, our team let out a cry of excitement, and were hugging and congratulating each other. It was an incredibly exciting time.

This year I attended the ceremony with the Aurecon environmental team for what was an amazing evening. I sat in the audience with the same sense of anticipation as I did two years ago, remembering and understanding what the participants must be feeling. It was very surreal. The companies that were shortlisted for the award were: Karara Mining Ltd; Murphy Pipe and Civil; Pendoley Environmental Pty Ltd; Barminco Ltd; Argyle Diamonds Ltd; Citic Pacific Mining Management Pty Ltd; and ESS Support Services Worldwide.

The charming emcee described each project as visuals were cast onto the screen. The Hon Norman Moore spoke for the last time at the Awards as he finishes his final year before enjoying his retirement, and was joined by the Director General, Richard Sellers, Deputy Director General, Approvals Group, Tim Griffin and Executive Director, Environment, Phil Gorey of the Department of Mines and Petroleum. We were also honoured with the presence of the Chief Scientist of Western Australia, Professor Lyn Beazley. And then the winners were announced:

  • The Certificate of Merit went to Argyle Diamonds Ltd; and
  • The Golden Gecko Award went to Pendoley Environmental Pty Ltd

    Golden Gecko Awards 2012

    The Hon. Norman Moore presenting at the 2012 Golden Gecko Awards

When the group from Pendoley were called out, cheers and woo-hoo’s came from the audience.  Kellie Pendoley accepted the Award from the Hon. Norman Moore with a hug and kiss on the cheek. As Phil Gorey described the science and innovative approach to tracking and understanding the movements and ecology of the turtles visiting Australia’s coastlines, Kellie stood on stage glowing with pride and excitement. This Award represented years of hard work and dedication. Kellie described the beginnings of the company after being let go from a previous organisation due to cost-cutting, how as a company they often provided information to the community, consultants and industry free of charge, and how their work was never compromised by answering to industry, government or other various stakeholders. Kellie made us laugh and infected us with her excitement. The atmosphere in the room was electric. The innovation, collaboration, hard work and leadership was an inspiration to us all.

Hon. Norman Moore, Kellie Pendoley and Phil Gorey

Hon. Norman Moore, Kellie Pendoley and Phil Gorey

The evening was brilliant, thanks to a small team from the DMP. The jovial nature of those handing out our name tags, the choice of venue, the drinks and nibbles, the stage backdrop, length of speeches and program in general was all coordinated by, what is to most of us, a virtual group of people. My only suggestion for improvement is that they should have been brought on stage and applauded for doing such a great job.

The Golden Gecko Award and everything they represent both directly and indirectly inspired our environmental team to further embrace the Aurecon values:

  1. Fostering human achievement through excellence, innovation and collaboration;
  2. Celebrate diversity and respect others by acting with integrity and honesty;
  3. Work to build a vibrant and brighter future for all.

The Awards this year represented the values that Aurecon as an organisation stands for – an amazing event inspired this year by an amazing woman leading a company that has demonstrated leading practice and innovation in environmental management.

Congratulations to Kellie and the team at Pendoley Environmental Pty Ltd!



Biomimicry: It’s Potential Application to Mining

This application of science is one that I am very, very excited about……

Biomimicry is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems (referenced from Wikipedia).

Janine Benyus presents a nice summary of biomimicry on Ted.com, and the book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, as well as, the Biomimicry Institute’s AskNature website provides some great examples.


Nature has produced prototypes over millions of years. Their success or failure has been determined by natural selection. In economic terms, the evolution of these prototypes equates to trillions of dollars. No company could afford to undergo the same rigorous process undertaken by nature thus making it understandable that human engineered structures are no match in comparison and not sustainable. These successful biological prototypes have no patent, and are freely available. Let’s look at some examples from AskNature (http://www.asknature.org/browse):

Water Collection

  • The desert-dwelling Namibian beetle (Stenocara gracilipes) obtains the water it needs to survive from ocean fog due to the surface of its forewings, which are covered in microscopic bumps with hydrophilic (water attracting) tips and hydrophobic (water repelling) sides. The beetle’s forewings are aimed at oncoming fog and as a result water droplets condense on its back and slide down channels into its mouth. Synthetic surfaces mimicking the beetle’s back have been created that are several times more effective than existing fog-catching nets, and could be used to generate clean freshwater supplies in arid regions, refugee camps, and at the tops of skyscrapers. These require no pumping.

Waste Management/ Bioremediation

  • The fern Pteris vittata can tolerate 100 to 1,000 times more arsenic than other plants. An arsenic pump of sorts takes the arsenic from the soil and stores it in the fronds in the fern. A protein, which acts as the pump, encoded by [an isolated] gene ends up in the membrane of the plant cell’s vacuole. The protein moves arsenic into the cell’s equivalent of a rubbish bin and stores it away from the cytoplasm so that it can’t have an effect on the plant.  The application of this species ability to move and store arsenic could lead to ways to clean up arsenic-contaminated land. (ScienceDaily 2010)

Energy Capture

  • Conventional silicon-based solar panels capture, separate, and transport light energy in one highly-purified material whose manufacture requires large amounts of energy, toxic solvents, and bulky infrastructure to support rigid panels. Plant-inspired solar cells mimic photosynthetic dyes and processes to generate solar energy many times more cheaply than silicon-based photovoltaics. In addition, they have the flexibility to be integrated with a building outer-layer. These dye-sensitive solar cells use a variety of photo-sensitive dyes and common, flexible materials that can be incorporated into architectural elements such as window panes, building paints, or textiles. Although traditional silicon-based photovoltaic solar cells currently have higher solar energy conversion ratios, dye-sensitive solar cells have higher overall power collection potential due to low-cost operability under a wider range of light and temperature conditions, and flexible application. The organism that inspired this technology, Kokia cookei O. Deg., is a hibiscus, which is native to Hawaii and has an IUCN red list status of “extinct in the wild”.

It is becoming increasingly more evident that the mining industry needs to become more:

  • energy efficient,
  • water efficient, and
  • reduce and recycle waste.

As described above, the use of biomimicry may help us to achieve these outcomes. Given the enormous library of organisms on this planet, I believe nature’s potential is yet to be unleashed. Countries, industries and individual companies that invest in research and development programs have proven to have a competitive advantage. We’ve only to look at India and China’s R&D programs as examples. This exciting area of science is shown to provide some answers and would definately be a worthwhile investment.