On the plane from Seattle to Vancouver: she sat next to me; she was tall, and ginger, with the white skin and freckles of the perfect. She told me she is a geologist en route to a weekend with her boyfriend, also a geologist doing a masters at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in exploration geology on a scholarship from Hunter Dickinson.
She confessed that she had worked for four years on the Pebble Mine, logging core and the funding for her masters had evaporated due to circumstances beyond her control.
I urged her to go to the mining department of UBC and do a masters in mining engineering. She confessed the thought had never entered her mind to do mining engineering. I told her that now is the time for women to do mining engineering, for now is the time to grab the opportunities of the industry. I told her of the woman from the University of Cardiff who has been mine manager at a northern diamond mine and is now on her way with her husband to London and the headquarters of bhpbilliton. I reminded her of the woman who is the environmental director of Goldcorp who is looking for women in mining for Goldcorp has decided at the highest level that women make better mining engineers than men—or at least that there should be more women mining engineers in the company if it is to succeed in the future. I reminded her of the woman who did an undergraduate degree in social sciences and then a masters at UBC in mining engineering and who is now earning lots and is on her way to being powerful. My ginger-headed plane companion could easily emulate them, I said.
I told her of my many clients in the mining industry. At least fifty percent of my clients are women. Most are chemical and process engineers, but they are successful in the mining industry and they pay me plenty to help them continue successful. I admire them and I do and would do anything they asked. For as a consultant, my first professional obligation is to make my client a success, and it is so much more a pleasure to do this when the client is a woman of intelligence, power, and decisiveness.
The world is changing. Men are displaced by women of ability. Those with education are in demand; those of no education are out of work. There is a new order emerging: two economies, one of great opportunity for those with the skills & education to do the hard & the new; the other economy for those of no education or skills is the terrible spectre of unemployment or cleaning rooms in hotels in Las Vegas.
Thus I told my plane companion that she must rise above mere geology for the mining industry. She must rise above mere exploration work for Hunter Dickinson and she must get a masters in mining engineering. Thus she will progress to an unlimited future. She too could manage diamond mines and go to London. She could even run Anglo American one day.
The point is there are no limits to the advance of women in mining. There are already many examples of women at the top, or near the top. There is no case to be made anymore that mining is only a man’s business. Now is the time for young women geologists and chemical engineers and their ilk to grab the opportunities. For by the time they are as old as me, they can be in charge.
I know that I tread on sacred territory with these remarks. I could even be accused of being sexist by those of shrill voice. But I plead that I have two daughters (and a son) and four grand-daughters (and four grandsons.) I am excited for my daughters who are both engineers (well at least the youngest will be when she passes the final exams.) I am excited for my four grand-daughters. I thrill at the idea that the world is completely open for them to do whatever they choose commensurate with their skills. And though they are still young, I can see in them intelligence, determination, application, and the ability to be part of the economy that is successful now and in the future. I do not know if any will become mining engineers. Certainly they will be civil engineers and geologist. Maybe they will be lawyers or doctors. But I doubt it. There is too much engineering in their parents and grandparents. These grand-daughters will surely be engineers and scientists.
A final thought: my son did political science and is now in the Navy. I suspect the four grand-sons will be political or social. Only one shows any skills in engineering. A strange new world awaits the future. So women go mining. It is better than war as a profession.