Digging deep to unearth success in mining ventures

New light has been shone on the pathway to success for mineral exploration ventures in Australia.

Researchers from QUT’s Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship Research (ACE) investigated more than 1000 joint ventures in the Australian mining industry to uncover why some succeed and others fail.  QUT research has found mining firms that bring new partners in to exploration projects increase the risk of termination – even if the new partner has deep pockets.

They discovered stability was the key to successful projects, providing valuable security in an industry affected by changing regulations and wider economic factors.

The research was sponsored by the Queensland Exploration Council (QEC) and the Australian Research Council.

Lead researcher Dr Rene Bakker said, surprisingly, bringing on new partners to joint venture mining projects sometimes increased the risk of a project being terminated.

“It is not always beneficial for smaller firms to bring on board a new partner, even one with deep pockets,” he said.

“A new partner can upset the status quo, disrupting the balance of power and making the project more likely to fail.

“Joint ventures can be a great resource for mining firms if executed correctly. But, as one mining executive said, you have to be very careful who you get into bed with.

However with significant challenges facing the mineral exploration sector, Dr Bakker said joint ventures would continue to feature prominently.

“New discoveries are becoming harder and more costly and joint ventures can help fill in gaps in specialised knowledge and financial resources,” he said.

“Challenges for investors include the upfront cost of capital investment, difficulty of discovery processes, increased lead time to advance deposits and increased global competition.

“We found successful projects were stable and this stability was maintained by factors including choosing projects widely, coming into the project with confidence, clearly defined needs at each site and patience and stamina to cope with the long lead times and high costs.

Chair of the QEC Geoff Dickie said patience and stamina were required by investors, given the long lead times and high costs.

“Joint venture partners need to be able to take a long-term view even in the face of a highly volatile market,” he said.

“This research gives explorers valuable insights into setting up and maintaining successful ventures.”


Media contact:

Rob Kidd, QUT Media, 07 3138 1841, rj.kidd@qut.edu.au
After hours, Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901

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Does firm location make a difference to the export performance of SME’s?

Does firm location make a difference to the export performance

This series of research vignette is aimed at sharing current and interesting research findings from our team of international Entrepreneurship researchers.  This vignette – ‘Does firm location make a difference to the export performance of SME’s?‘, based on a research article from 2011 by Styles and Lawley, deals with export capacity of Australian SMEs. This collected data from an expert panel of government trade advisors, as well as managers of SME exporters in regional and metropolitan areas in Queensland.

ACE GEM Research published as an opinion piece with CNN

 ACE’s recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report received media coverage with CNN last week.  Here is the opinion piece by Associate Professor Paul Steffens, deputy director of ACE:



Essentially the report outlines Australia’s impressive recent entrepreneurial performance.  The full  report can be found here: 

GEM Report

What is GEM

In 2011, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) study was conducted across 54 countries. Over 140,000 adults aged between 18 and 64, including 2,000 in Australia were interviewed. GEM differs from other studies in that by surveying the adult population, it identifies entrepreneurs at the very earliest stages of new business creation.


  • Australia’s entrepreneurship rate is second only to the USA amongst developed countries
  • We estimate that 10.5% of the Australian adult population were actively engaged in starting and running new businesses in 2011. This equates to 1.48 million early-stage entrepreneurs
  • Of the estimated 1.48 million early-stage entrepreneurs:

      *   40% or 590,000 were women

      *   33% or 580,000 expected to creates at least 5 new jobs in the next 5 years

      *   11% or 170,000 expected to create 20 or more new jobs in the next 5 years

  • Australia also ranks above average for employee entrepreneurial activity in established firms. An estimated 5.0% of the adult population is engaged in developing or launching new products, a new business unit or subsidiary for their employer.
  • Australia was one of only three developed countries, together with the US and Netherlands, that ranked above average for both entrepreneurship rate and employee entrepreneurial activity
  • Australia outperforms most other developed economies on indicators of the quality and economic impact of its business start-ups, including growth aspirations, number of opportunity-driven start-ups and innovativeness
  • The vast majority of start-ups in Australia are founded based on a desire to take advantage of perceived opportunities with only 1 in 5 new ventures started through necessity –
  • While the global economic slowdown (GFC) clearly increased the level of necessity driven entrepreneurship in Australia, this increase is not as strong as that experienced in the USA.
  • Approximately 50% of the Australians believe that good opportunities exist for the establishment of new ventures, and that they possess the skills to start a business. This is well above international averages.
  • International orientation is below average for Australian early state entrepreneurs, most likely due to the geographic distance to international markets
  • Australian entrepreneurship is comparatively inclusive. For example, at 8.4% the female total entrepreneurial activity is second only to the USA.


Experiments in the MBA Classroom: the Case of Time Frames in Project Teams

 “Everybody knows it’s temporary. We all know the deadline, and then we shut down everything here. The whole thing is built up to be broken down. [..] You become one team, certainly, but through it all, in the back of your mind, you ask: for how long will it stay?” – Project engineer on major medical innovation project, interviewed on what characterizes being part of a creative project team.

 New venture projects tend to be founded by entrepreneurs who work in teams. At the stage of venture creation, such teams tend to closely resemble creative projects in which entrepreneurial opportunities need to be grasped in short, focused periods of time. While there is agreement that this “temporal” aspect of project teams is important, there is surprisingly little research on what time frames “do” to project teams.  Read more.

Benefits and drawbacks of startup team heterogeneity

In this vignette, post-doctoral research fellow Michael Stuetzer considers some of the benefits and drawbacks associated with team start-ups.

Start-ups in innovative industries are often created by teams rather than individual entrepreneurs. Furthermore team started ventures seem to outperform solo started ventures. The overt success of entrepreneurial teams can be attributed to the logic that particularly innovative industries might require more skills and knowledge than an individual would be likely to posses, necessitating that individuals combine their abilities in teams in order to start-up successfully. But how do we build a successful start-up team?

Academic research usually portrays functional heterogeneity in a start-up team as a good thing. A range of arguments related to the scope of team member’s functional background (e.g. more knowledge, pooling of resources, higher creativity) support this view. However, business history is full of shocking stories about heterogeneous start-up teams who dissolved in bitter fights stemming from communication problems and internal conflicts.

Read the full vignette here