Ingrid Glass-Van der Beek
Ingrid graduated with a BSc (Honours) in Geology and works as an Underground Production Geologist at Placer Dome Asia Pacific, Laverton, Western Australia.
What do you like the most in your job?
Working underground as part of a mine production team is interesting and challenging, as there is always something going on. You get to know the geology of the deposit very well as you are always at the rock face, predicting what the geology is going to do in the next cut of ore development. You also determine whether the freshly blasted rock will be kept as ore to go through to the mill or get sent off as waste - which is a decision worth $3,000! It’s also great to be able to visualise the deposit geology using 3D mining software from data you’ve collected which aids in modelling of the orebody and grade control.
My time spent at exploration provided a very different experience to that of the underground (besides the excess of sunshine!). At exploration I have been able to expand my scope to the regional geology and look at the bigger picture rather than focussing on the deposit geology. I have been able to use magnetics and gravity as well as cutting-edge PIMA and multi-element analysis to look for new prospects and drilling targets which has been very exciting. I found that I was drawing on my knowledge from uni quite a bit more than I was when working in production, as it involved a lot of conceptual thinking and was quite challenging.
The lifestyle is also alluring as I work a 9-5 roster, and though the 12 hour days are enduring, the 5 days off is like a little holiday each time. We fly to the minesite on company time straight from Perth to Laverton which takes roughly 1.5 hours. The minesite is a 10 minute drive away, where we spend the nine days in donga-style accommodation (room/ensuite bathroom).
While females are a minority in the mining industry, I have so far not found any disadvantages being a female. At my previous placement we had females making up 50% of management. At Granny Smith there are approximately 35 women in a workforce of 400 people, where 4 are geologists/geophysicists.
What's your advice to prospective students about "real" geology?
I found that a majority of the knowledge and experience you need is gained while working on the job, while the years of study at university provide the foundations you need to carry out the work. There are plenty of opportunities out there, and geologists are particularly in demand at the moment. Before commencing any graduate schemes, check to see what duties you will be performing to be sure you get a well-rounded experience.
My advice is to give everything a try to see what suits you best - whether you like mine-based work concerned with production, whether it be in a pit or underground, or whether the idea of looking for the next big deposit through exploration sounds more like you.