Mr Lai has long and deep links to the mine on Christmas Island. He first arrived on the island in 1978, and not long after, joined the UCIW he worked to deliver improved conditions to the island’s ethnic work population.
His drive, work ethic and passion saw him progress quickly to supervisory roles within the company. When the Australian Government closed the mine in 1987, Lai along with the late Gordon Bennett and others, fought to reopen the mine over a three year period, for the purpose of providing jobs for Christmas Islanders, for without jobs there was no other economy or prospects for local residents to maintain a livelihood.
Since the beginnings of Phosphate Resources, Lai has performed in key roles including chairman and director, and over the past two decades, he has been the managing director for the company.
Lai provides long-term and strategic oversight of the company steering it through challenging times including the Asian financial crisis and the global financial crisis. Lai has driven the company’s diversification strategy, that has allowed the business to not solely rely on its core phosphate trade.
In 2004 he was awarded the Centennial Medal by the Federal Government for his contributions to Christmas Island and its community.