I was born/grew up in: Kirkland Lake, Ontario
I now live in: Saint-Sauveur, Quebec
What I do at work
Basically, I make sure that we don't harm the environment with our mining activities. I make sure that the plants and animals in the area are protected. I also make sure that water or air released from the mine site does not hurt the environment. To do this I use both my science background and my experience working in the mining industry. I have worked in plants that process ore to extract gold from the rock. I have worked in water treatment plants to remove chemicals from the water before we send it back to the environment. My family works in the mining industry, so I have grown up around mining. All of this helps me understand the parts of a mine that can affect the environment and how to prevent that from happening.
Much of my day is spent in meetings and at my computer. As head of the department, I'm responsible for all things that relate to the environment at the mine. I hire consultants to carry out our monitoring programs. These includes such people as fishery biologists, wildlife biologists, geochemists, and geotechnical engineers. These people are experts in their fields.
I work with a team of coordinators and technicians. Together we make sure that all the sampling, analysis, inspections, monitoring programs are completed. This ensures that environment and wildlife are protected. I also meet with other departments at the mine site. This helps to make sure everyone is aware of, and are following, our permit obligations. I work with local indigenous groups to explain the work that is proposed and to gather their inputs before we start mining.
As a head of department, I manage the budget side of things too. This includes such things as estimating the costs for the upcoming years and presenting to the corporate group. Each month I present an update on my budget. I explain why I’m either over or under the amount that was budgeted. Since every mine will eventually run out of valuable ore, part of my work is to set a plan for when we close the mine. When that happens, we want to return the mine site to a sustainable environment with as little trace as possible of having been there.
My career path is
Mining is not where I expected to be at all, even though I grew up in a mining town. After a few years of a General Science bachelor’s degree that was way too vague, I ended up at the Haileybury School of Mines because I liked rocks. From there, my first coop placement was in a process plant as a junior metallurgist. In high school, I didn’t know that job existed! I got to use my science skills in this job. I did lab experiments to check if we had enough chemical to get the gold out of the rock. I also started taking and analyzing water samples on the side. The most fun, was to pour the gold bars every week!
With my sampling background, I was offered a job in the environment department. I didn’t have much background in the environmental side of mining, so I learned on the job. I networked with peers at other mines and leaned what I could from the consultants we hired. In this way, I grew into my role as an environmental coordinator and later an Environmental Superintendent.
After several years, I went back to school to get my Science degree in Environmental Management. I've found that by choosing the jobs that were in small, isolated communities, I was exposed to so many more work experiences than with a large company. I had a lot more responsibilities early in my career which helped get me to where I'm at today. I’m working in a fly-in fly-out camp with my husband. I’m getting to see the arctic tundra and getting to live in the Laurentians at the same time.
I am motivated by
I love the fact that my job is not the same every day. One day I can be reviewing the analyses of our water samples and making sure it is safe to send back to the environment. The next day I might be monitoring the caribou migration at the mine site and stopping all the mining activity to protect the herd. I might be looking at data on air quality, soil samples, groundwater, permafrost, or how to manage the rainwater at the site. Next, I might be reading up on environmental laws and regulations and applying them.
I like that when I'm tired of sitting at my desk, I can hop in a pick-up and drive around the mine site. I do this to check out all the activities such as mining, water treatment, construction, or drilling. Being out on site helps make sure everyone is obeying the rules to protect the environment.
Most important to me, is there always something new to learn. Different provinces may have different laws or regulations. Different environments bring different challenges and experiences. For example, in the arctic I can encounter muskox and arctic foxes in my travels. I find lifelong learning very rewarding.
How I affect peoples’ lives
By monitoring and protecting the environment, I make sure that the areas will remain pristine for all to enjoy after we are done mining. With working with my team, I can help mentor them to continue to grow in their careers. I enjoy training my future replacement. I really enjoy working with the public and the indigenous groups. I enjoy being able to explain how mining works and how we are protecting the environment.
Outside of work I
I've always enjoyed photography, especially with all the travels that we do. Now that we live in the Laurentians, I've recently learned how to downhill ski. I have taken up cycling in the summers. When my kids were younger, I always volunteered with their hockey and school activities along with French community organizations. To relax, I curl up with a good book by the fireplace or complete jigsaw puzzles.
My advice to others
My advice would be to take all the opportunities that are offered, especially off the beaten path. Ensure that you network and meet others that do the same job. They will be sources of help when there are challenges. Embrace lifelong learning and don't be in a rush to get to the top. Hard work will make that happen naturally.