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Lisa T. Phiri

Mining Geologist
Barkerville Gold Mine
Lisa Phiri dans une mine souterraine

Lisa Phiri in underground mine.

Lisa Phiri dans une mine souterraine

Lisa Phiri in underground mine.

Location Now
Education Pathway

I examine rocks in an underground mine to determine the amount and location of gold.

About me

I was born/grew up in: I was born in Sudan. I grew up in Winnipeg and prior to that my childhood was spent in Scotland, Kenya and Lesotho.

I now live in: British Columbia

I completed my training/education at: I completed a Diploma in Civil Engineering at Lerotholi Polytechnic, in Maseru, Lesotho. I also have a BSc. in Geological Sciences from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

What I do at work

I begin my day by attending a safety meeting with the team to discuss ongoing work. We talk about the work we have planned for the day. This includes the areas we plan to visit underground. We also discuss hazards, safety protocol and any other issues that may have come up. After the meeting, I decide on the areas to be mapped. I also track the movement of ore and collect samples. While underground, I map sections of the mine. I also direct the drills and also conduct geotechnical inspections.

After collection, the data is analyzed. Sample results from the lab are reviewed and the underground maps are updated. We do this on a hard copy and on our computer programs. After analysis, the geology and engineering team meet to determine the safest and most efficient direction to drill for gold.

There are a lot of skills needed in this role.  Some of the skills include analyzing objects in 2-D and 3-D. You also have to have good observation skills and be able to take measurements of linear and planar features in rock. Computer skills and being able to use a compass are also important.

The underground world of a mine is always changing. We update the maps so that our 3-D computer model reflects the changes. All the data collected is compiled to create a 3-D, interactive environment. We use this to interpret the location of mineral resources.

My career path is

In grade school, I wanted to be a doctor. But I always had a fascination in buildings and bridges.  So after high school, I studied Civil Engineering. During my internship, I worked as a Supervisor at a construction site. Later I worked as a Technician to collect data, digitize roads and supervise a foot bridge construction. 

My family immigrated to Winnipeg right after my diploma. At this time I decided to do a university degree in Geological Sciences. After my bachelors, I was hired to teach geology to grade school and high school students all across Canada. From here I worked with an organization that promotes mineral exploration. This job was like being a teacher but not in a school. I prepared education programs and helped deliver them as well. I worked with both government agencies and non-government organizations. I also worked with the mining industry, schools and First Nation communities. I was able to combine my love for geology, teaching and traveling in a career!

I left this job and took a position with a mining and geology consulting company. From here I took a position as geological technician with a gold mining company. After I worked in this position for a while, the position of mine geologist came up. I applied and that is what I am working at today.  I use my geology background to examine rocks in an underground mine. My job is to determine the amount and location of gold.  My ability to adapt easily has been a benefit. It has allowed me to follow different avenues in the industry I never imagined. Of course, I had several challenges, but you need to persevere in spite of them. Never give up and always believe in yourself!

I am motivated by

I love rocks and minerals! I think they are just fascinating to look at!  I enjoy being involved in discovering minerals. I also love trying to figure out their story through the evidence we see in rocks. The mining industry is very diverse in terms of careers. You can evolve in your career and gain more skills in this industry. There are many areas to work in. This ranges from Exploration where sites for mines are located. Then comes the Development stage when you are getting the mine ready for production. Next comes Operations which is the time when you are actively removing minerals from the mine. Finally, you can work in Reclamation. This happens after the mine is finished.

How I affect peoples’ lives

Canada is one of the leaders in the world when it comes to mining. Our economy is dependent on our mineral resources. Mine geologists help find minerals that can be used in many everyday items. This includes such things as computers, electronics, and mobile phones. Geology helps us understand the earth and its resources. This helps us to better address societal issues.

Outside of work I

Outside of work, I love spending time with family, hiking, dancing, cooking and visiting new places! I also enjoy going to the gym and taking fitness classes.

My advice to others

Ask questions and interview several people on their experiences. If you can, shadow people at work and even apply for a summer position to get exposure into life in the industry. You need to experience it to know if it’s for you. A career in this field is very demanding but also very rewarding in the experiences you will gain. 

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Foods and Nutrition
  • Foreign languages
  • Geography
  • History
  • Literature and Language Arts
  • Science
  • Math
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Liked helping people
  • Played on a sports team
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Liked reading
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Felt at home in the outside, natural environment
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Learned best “by doing”
  • Liked to design or build things

Related Topics


Mining Matters

Let's Talk Science would like to thank Mining Matters for connecting us with the individual profiled above.

Mining Matters is a charitable organization dedicated to bringing knowledge and awareness about Canada's geology, mineral resources, and their roles in society to students, educators, and the public. The organization provides current information about rocks, minerals, metals, mining and the diverse career opportunities available in the minerals industry.

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