A commitment to life-long learning and resilience to change has seen Ghana-born and bred Benjamin Osei Akoto build a successful career in the Australian mining industry – a road he is now helping other young African engineers travel.
With a Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, and experience working across numerous civil and mining projects in Africa, Ben arrived in Australia in 2008.
Initially working in client-based roles, Ben searched for opportunities to move across to the contractor side. That opportunity came in 2012 when Thiess offered Ben a role working at its Prominent Hill project in South Australia.
“I love being on the contractor side,” Ben said.
“It’s fast-paced, and you get visibility across the entire project - from the technical aspects, right through to contract management, cost control and monitoring and financing. When you’re working on the client-side, you’re more inclined to focus on just one particular area of a project.”
From Prominent Hill, Ben spent time on our Roper Bar project in the Northern Territory before relocating to Perth with his young family to take-up the Technical Services Manager role at BHP’s Rocky’s Reward Nickel Mine. Fast forward to June this year, and he is now leading a team of 255 employees as the site’s Project Manager.
Ben’s technical skills and four-year history with the project made him an ideal candidate when the role became available.
“Rocky’s Reward is a highly technical site involving mining through old underground workings, so my knowledge of the project from previous roles is definitely a big plus,” he said.
With all functions from Health and Safety, Mining, Technical Services, Maintenance, and Finance and Administration now reporting into him, Ben’s responsibilities span the entire project.
“The new role is going well. I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to bring a team of people together each day to work towards common goals, from delivering business outcomes to making sure everyone is safe every day.”
With Australia very much now home for Ben and his family, he is helping other young African engineers’ transition to life and work in Australia through his work with the African Mining Professionals Association of Australia.
As a founding member of the association, Ben provides mentoring to young engineering students starting out.
“A degree is really just your ticket to get into the industry of your choice. What really counts, is what you do with the opportunities that come your way once you’re out working.
“In today’s technology-led world, everything changes so fast that what you learn at university quickly becomes out of date. You need to keep learning. Learn how to deal with the new and unfamiliar and how to solve problems.”
Sound advice it would seem given Ben’s achievements in the industry, particularly since joining Thiess seven years ago.
“Thiess is a fantastic company to work for. They recognise and reward hard work by providing opportunities to further your career.
“I have been lucky to learn and be mentored by some great leaders within our industry since joining Thiess which has contributed immensely to my development, and for this, I am very grateful.
“I have also had the pleasure of working with teams of dedicated professionals who are very supportive and make work more fun.”