Northern Minerals case study

Northern Minerals (ASX: NTU) is positioned to become the first significant producer of rare earth element dysprosium outside of China. 

PeopleStart was engaged by Northern Minerals to implement HR structures and manage the strategic recruitment of all operations staff for its Browns Range Project as it moved from construction of the large-scale pilot plant into production.  

PeopleStart were tasked with: 

  • Development of an employee value proposition (EVP), strategic recruitment and HR strategy as well as a marketing campaign to attract skilled personnel to the 3-year pilot plant project 
  • Creation of site-based contracts of employment and associated policies to ensure compliance and protect the business 
  • Recruitment of all operations staff including: 
    • Management and supervisory staff 
    • Process operators / production roles across complex minerals processing areas 
    • Mechanical and electrical tradespeople 
    • Mobile plant operators 
    • Senior chemists and laboratory staff 
    • Process engineers, metallurgical staff 
    • Environment, health and safety staff 
  • Onboarding of all mine operations staff, including inductions, bookings of medicals, arrangement of clearances, etc. 
  • Indigenous engagement management  

The challenge 

Northern Minerals faced a number of challenges in its efforts to attract and retain the highly skilled talent with complex minerals processing experience needed for the Browns Range Project. 

Challenges included:  

  • The plant was located 160km south east of Halls Creek near the WA / NT border, the Browns Range Project is in the one of the most remote and socially and economically disadvantaged parts of Australia.  
  • Project personnel were predominately FIFO from Perth which resulted in significant travel time for personnel from point of hire to site (10-12 hours). During parts of the year the site is inaccessible by road and affected by the Kimberley wet season. 
  • An atypical roster of 15 days on, six days off, which differs from what is offered by most competing companies that have an 8/6 roster. 
  • The camp was very basic with few amenities, much like an exploration camp. For instance, there were no televisions in the staff quarters and no mobile phone reception. 
  • The beneficiation and hydro-metallurgical processing plant had extremely complex global-first production processes.  
  • Increasing competition from other projects, putting pressure on available skills 
  • The pressing need to complete the recruitment campaign within deadline to meet commissioning and mine opening time frames.
  • Budget constraints put downward pressure on wage offers.

The attract and recruit strategy 

PeopleStart was able to meet these challenges by implementing an effective attract and recruitment strategy that included the following elements: 

  • Build a dream. Focus on the vision of the company and the opportunity this provided for employees to learn and develop, rather than conditions. 
  • A highly integrated and personal approach to candidate attraction and management. 
  • Focus on the putting the candidate experience at the forefront of the recruitment campaign as part of Northern Minerals’ culture of ‘People first’. 
  • Create a feeling in the recruitment advertising and marketing that demonstrated Northern Minerals’ genuine care and commitment for people. 
  • Emphasise the area’s unique challenges as an opportunity to be part of helping a community of people in some of the toughest social and economic conditions in the country. 

The outcome 

  • PeopleStart generated large amounts of interest from 10,000s of potential candidates through social media campaigns and advertising. This helped to create a strong company brand and increase brand awareness for Northern Minerals. 
  • PeopleStart built on the trusted relationships of the executive team to become a well-integrated extension of the wider Northern Minerals team 
  • Completed the recruitment campaign to ensure commissioning and production commenced on schedule
  • Reduced initial recruitment costs to the business by a massive $250K
  • Reduced annual labour costs by 10%
  • Exceeded Indigenous engagement targets by 200% 
  • PeopleStart continue to be utilised by the Northern Minerals team for advice on people related matters. 


“PeopleStart are exceptional. Trust is important when you are managing critical projects and they deliver above expectation every time” – GEORGE BAUK, CEO of Northern Minerals