Pit Stop No17: Discover Flavie’s mining journey

Flavie Arseneau just completed her mining engineering degree at McGill University. She has agreed to share some of the experiences she has had in mining. Check out my interview with a girl who was born for mining.

1. What enticed you into considering a career in mining?

Back when I was fifteen, I met a McGill Mining Engineering student who was working in a quarry. He told me about the program, the opportunities in the field and how rewarding it was. It sounded like something out of the box and this is what I was looking for. When the time came for me to choose a career, I looked for something that would challenge me and make me scratch my head every day and that brought me to mining!

2. Tell us more about your different Co-op work experiences.

I had my first coop experience at the Osisko mine now known as Canadian Malartic mine in the small township of Malartic. I was hired as an open-pit surveyor and would spend the day surveying blast holes, new excavations, and diamond drill work. It was a great experience as I had the chance to be independent and I felt like an important part of the team. I was lucky to be on the field every day as few students get to experience fieldwork at their first stage.

 

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Flavie surveying the open-pit

 

For my second internship, I worked at Bracemac-McLeod underground mine in Matagami. I was also a surveyor but this time in the underground mine, which was a very different experience from open-pit. I learnt a lot of new aspects of a surveyor’s job and the great importance of it. I was part of a great team as well and I really enjoyed working with the people over there.
 

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Flavie at the underground Bracemac-McLeod mine

 

For my third internship, I went to Raglan mine, which is located in the most northern part of Quebec. It was quite an impressive and complex mine. I had the opportunity to look at different aspects of long term and short planning. I also did a lot of things such as spending time undergrounds with foremen and miners on a day to day production crew. At that time, I understood something important about mining: underground operations are difficult and they rarely goes as planned, we have to be ready to adapt quickly!

For my fourth and final internship, I was based in Timmins and worked for Kidd Creek mine. I was part of the long-term planning team and the experience turned out to one of the best. I learnt so much on planning,ventilation, rock mechanic, reserve estimation, geology and much more. Everybody was open for discussion and never would I find a close door.

3. What skills did you gain from your work experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise have learnt at school?

Technical skills. I’ve learnt a lot on planning, ventilation, rock mechanic, and production when applied on the field. Being on the job also teaches you to work in teams efficiently. As well, I learnt to take decisions and to be sure of them. When you work on the field, you need to be smart, you need to be able to take big decisions, and you need to be present.

4. Were you given more responsibilities as you were gaining more experience?

Yes! I was given a lot of responsibilities and loved it. I believe responsibilities come with will power more than experiences. If people see that you are passionate and smart, they will give you more responsibilities even though you are still new to the field.

5. Were you ever treated differently because you are a woman?

No. I was half expecting to be treated slightly differently because I’m in a male-dominated industry but that never happened and it was a very positive thing.

6. What aspect do you most like about working in mining? And what do you dislike the most?

As bad as it sounds, nothing ever goes as planned in mining. This is a major challenge, which pushes me and keeps me going in mining. You really have to think of smart ways to find a solution to the problem or else you will be in big trouble. And you don’t want that.

What I dislike the most about mining is it farness. Mines are far and family are sometimes torn apart. The last thing I want is to be faced with choosing between my job or my family.

7. Is there a particular moment while working in mining that made you feel in the right industry for you?

I always knew this was the right field for me because I was aware of what mining was before choosing it as a career.

8. Any plans after graduation?

Master’s in rock mechanics at McGill under the supervision of Prof. Hani Mitri. My research will be focusing on de-stress blasting, which is both very interesting and applicable on the field.

9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

I see myself working in a mine as rock mechanic engineer either at a Fly-in-Fly-out operation or on a mine site. I am hoping to be a professional engineer by then and maybe start a family? I’m definitely looking to be challenged every day and to work along side amazing people.

Pit Stop No12: The PDAC

If you are in mining, you must have crossed the PDAC at some point. The PDAC stands for Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada; it is the most famous mineral industry convention. It occurs annually at the Metro Toronto Convention centre around the month of March. This four-day congress has an international reputation attracting over 1,000 exhibitors and 20,000 attendees from around the world for networking, deal-making and scientific exchange. It consists of a trade show and a series of technical sessions, short courses as well as social and networking events. The trade-show is the most overwhelming and spectacular part of the PDAC, I think! It is a hub for all junior mining and exploration companies and the world’s biggest investors. Worth mentioning the notorious mining companies’ parties at the Fairmont Royal York hotel every night.

Part of the Trade Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Part of the Trade Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Aisle of the PDAC with exhibitors from different country like China

Aisle of the PDAC with exhibitors from different countries like China

As a student, the PDAC can seem overwhelming at first but the organization has planned some events exclusively for students. These include guided tours of the trade show, a PDAC survival skills workshop, and a student-industry networking luncheon. It’s important to understand that the PDAC is not a place to search for jobs or coops; it’s a place to learn about the challenges the industry is facing and, more importantly to connect with industry professionals and leaders. Connecting means approaching other people, interacting with them to learn about their work and experience and develop contacts. You can never have too much of those!

Student booth at the PDAC

Student booth at the PDAC

This year was my second time attending the convention and my first time volunteering for the PDAC. Volunteering is an amazing opportunity to meet professionals while learning more on what the PDAC does as an organization (not to mention that volunteers also attend the convention for free!) My role was to attend to the E3 Plus booth. The E3 Plus is a PDAC initiative to provide a framework for responsible exploration. Its purpose is to encourage the exploration companies to improve on their social, environmental and health and safety performance by providing them with online toolkits and guidelines to do so.

Me and another Volunteer at the E3 Plus Booth

Me and another Volunteer at the E3 Plus Booth

For me, attending the PDAC has been a great experience these past two years! I have had the opportunity to attend a technical session on commodities and market outlook where mining mogul Robert Friedland gave his insight on the minerals of the future. One of my favourite moments of the PDAC occurred at the WIM networking reception. During that event the 2015 WIM trailblazer winner was announced and I had the opportunity to meet winner Betty-Ann Heggie.

Robert Friedland giving his Presentation on the Minerals Outlook

Robert Friedland giving his Presentation on Minerals Outlook

2015 Trailblazer award winner Betty-Ann Heggie accompanied by the WIM Canada Board of Directors

2015 Trailblazer Award Winner Betty-Ann Heggie accompanied by the WIM Canada Board of Directors

Pit Stop No10: The Engineers Without Borders Canada Annual Conference/Mining stream

Every year EWB Canada holds its annual conference; for the first time this year, the conference had a special focus on the mining industry and tackled some of its challenges through a series of workshops and sessions.

The mining stream revolved around the question of how mining could “work” for development; what conditions need to be in place for mining to advance development outcomes? What opportunities exist for private companies to do more for development? How can communities and companies work in local partnerships?

One of my favourite session was the “Making Mining Work for Development: An Interactive Role-Play”. This session, organized by consulting company Hatch was both fun and constructive. We were divided into five groups representing exactly the client, the local businesses, the international businesses and NGOs. The projected consisted in the construction of a nickel mine in a remote location in Africa. Each one of the groups was given a set of contracts that needed to be signed between the groups prior to the construction of the mine. It was really challenging to satisfy the project constraints as well as the expectations of each group. This session gave us a good sense of the complexity of mining projects. It was a privilege to have Kinross Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, Ed Opitz as one of the members of my group. His input was really valuable and he explained to us how in real life those kinds of projects were handled.

Mining is a big player in development. In Africa for example, a mine will hire the local workforce, provide training, education and local procurement. Although the mining industry is far from perfect, there is a progress in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Mining companies are becoming more aware of the importance of CSR and its positive impacts.

Overall, the conference was a real blast! I met with many EWB delegates form all over Canada; I felt inspired by the story of the women and men from the Kumvana delegation who fought for their education, who still fight to better the future of their communities. I was particularly touched by Nafisa Adams’ courage and strong will. After fighting her way to school, Nafisa decided to go back to her community village in Ghana and give hope to the women there. She founded the Beads of Hope Ghana. This business provides the opportunity to the women to bead simple jewelry while becoming more economically independent.

Nafisa Adams and I selling some Bead for Hope at the EWB 2015 conference

Nafisa Adams and I selling some Beads for Hope at the EWB 2015 conference

The conference showed me that there is potential in each one of us to make a positive #change. I am ready to put that positive attitude in action and continue working hard to promote sustainability in mining!

The EWB conference ended with music and a dance floor!

The EWB conference ended with music and a dance floor!

PS: Did you know that EWB Canada has a Mining Shared Value venture! Not sure what it means? Mining shared Value is about helping Canadian mining companies maximize local procurement of goods and services so that the host countries gain economical and social benefits from the mining activities.

PPS: You can follow the Mining shared Value on twitter @ewb_msv

Pit Stop No5: The Walrus Talks Energy with Suncor

Part of its educational mandate, The Walrus Foundation has organized a national speaker series The Walrus Talks. Each talk brings together eight speakers for a seven minutes presentation each on various subjects relating to a single theme. The Walrus Talks deliver lively, inspiring and riveting new ideas and challenges the way we look at big issues. Each talk is then followed by a reception with both attendees and participants.

Suncor Energy, a Canadian integrated energy company has hosted with The Walrus Foundation a four-part, cross-country speaker series about Canada’s energy future. The Walrus Talks Energy broadens its public understanding on sustainable energy future, collective environmental impact, the challenges of energy production and what lies ahead in terms of energy demand and consumption.

One of The Walrus Talks Energy was held in Montreal at McGill University, on October 1st 2013. The speakers included Vicky Sharpe, the CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada; Andrew Heintzman, the president of Investeco Capital, the first Canadian investment company to be exclusively focused on environmental sectors; and Kali Taylor, the founder of Student Energy, an organization that strives to create a movement of students committed to bringing about a sustainable energy future.

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Suncor Presents The Walrus Talks Energy at McGill University

The 2014 Walrus Talks will address numerous themes and feature more than a 100 speakers across Canada. Information on future Talks available at thewalrus.ca/events.

N.B: The walrus Foundation is a non-profitable organization whose mandate is to create dynamic forums to engage Canadians on diverse themes such as water, energy, philanthropy, literature, urban spaces, human rights, climate change etc. The foundation supports writers, artists and provoking ideas by publishing The Walrus magazine, organizing speakers’ event, debates and leadership dinners as well as other events across Canada. To know more about The Walrus, visit www.thewalrus.ca