Rock Star Robert Bell: Enjoyment + curiosity + hard work = success in mining

Robert Bell has followed his entrepreneurial spirit and appreciation of collaboration to become an independent consultant

by Jillian Clark
Shown here is Robert Bell. His work history includes executive positions at Luscar Ltd., Pine Valley Mining, Teck Resources, Ram River Coal and Atrum Coal. Now, he's followed his entrepreneurial spirit and appreciation of collaboration to become an independent consultant.

Robert Bell's work history includes executive positions at Luscar Ltd., Pine Valley Mining, Teck Resources, Ram River Coal and Atrum Coal. Now, he's followed his entrepreneurial spirit and appreciation of collaboration to become an independent consultant. — Photo courtesy Robert Bell

Robert Bell’s 28 years of experience in Canada’s coal industry, plus his personal pursuit of an independent consulting career, leaves no room for questioning why the Coal Association of Canada (CAC) approached him to moderate its 2017 conference in Vancouver. He is an expert in mining and business.

Coal sparked an interest

Bell’s grandfather was a coal miner. The first spark of interest grew from those family roots. After reading about the development of Alberta’s energy industry and the pro-business attitude of the government, Robert Bell jumped into Western Canada’s world of coal mining. Bell’s passion for coal took a different path than his grandfather’s career, following a pull towards business and specializing in international coal exports, transportation and people.

The people person

His interest in business differentiates Bell from the crowd. “I’m a people person,” he said. “Rather than focusing on technical issues, I wanted to focus on the people side of the business.” His outward personality drove him to look towards customers in coal. “I wanted to know who the customers were," said Bell. "It’s important for me to understand how the customer is using the product.”

Over the years, Bell has continuously sought out his customers and ways to satisfying their needs. All throughout, he enjoyed working with teams, taking a collaborative approach to problem solving.

Collaboration and consulting

With his love for collaboration and eagerness to please, Bell traded his titles at large coal companies to follow his entrepreneurial spirit. He now works as an independent consultant, mainly in transportation, coal market development and property development. His goal is to help other teams succeed.

“It was a change of pace,” Bell said. “When I retired from Teck Resources, I was interested in looking for directorship roles and consulting work. I was keen on helping companies grow.”

After all this time, his interest in coal has not wavered. He has recently joined forces with Diadem Group, a supply chain and logistics consulting firm—in addition to consulting on his own. “At the moment, I am focusing on business development around the new venture,” said Bell. He and three other consultants with significant transportation experience have come together to offer their clients even more expertise. “Transportation is a huge part of managing a successful coal export operation,” Bell said.

The new venture will broaden Bell’s reach to transportation logistics across multiple industries. “Transportation is vital,” he said. “We aren’t just looking at coal, but the entire transportation sector.” Through transportation logistics and market strategies, he helps teams develop new properties and determine the next steps for their projects. “A lot of what I do is talking to people who are moving their projects along,” he said.

A career built on integrity and hard work

Bell values honesty as a consultant. He hopes his expertise and sincere opinions encourage and guide his clients towards success. “I enjoy working with people who are trying to add value to what they are doing,” Bell said. “I try to be upfront and honest with the people I work with.” His coal industry expertise comes hand in hand with his personal integrity and positive reputation he has built throughout his career. “When I give people my opinion, they know that I am bringing my sincerely held views to their projects,” he said.

Bell has watched the coal market’s cycle move through waves. He has helped teams find success when their goals appeared unattainable. The true explanation for his own success is hard work. “There’s no substitute for sincere hard work,” said Bell. Enjoying the mining industry helps as well. “The key to having a successful career in the mining industry is starting from actually enjoying it, then being curious about what makes the business work and striving to add value,” he said. Somewhere between hard work and curiosity lies success.

CAC 2017 Conference

On September 27 through 29, members of Canada’s coal industry will gather to talk about what’s new in their field. The upcoming Coal Association of Canada Conference in Vancouver includes presentations, lectures, discussion panels, and question-and-answer periods.

Bell will moderate the event. “I am most looking forward to seeing the key players in the industry come together to discuss what is happening in the industry today,” he said.

The interactions amongst the key players in the industry and the opportunity to network with these key players are beneficial to anyone in the coal industry.

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