The Gold Industry Group recently spoke with Norton Gold Fields Geologist Angela Spencer about how they are supporting smaller mining companies through Toll Treatment, which benefits the wider community.

Angela, tell us a bit about what Toll Treatment is? 

Basically, it’s about giving smaller mining companies (for whom it’s not practical or economical to build their own mill) the opportunity to process their ore at another company’s mill.  At the same time, it gives the host company the opportunity to more easily obtain an optimum balance of oxide and fresh material to feed through their mill.

It opens up mining opportunities for a multitude of smaller companies that would otherwise be unable to realise their potential – which is a real boon for the mining industry!  When it’s done right, it’s a real win-win arrangement for both the host company (Norton) and the smaller companies in the mining community.  It creates work for mining, haulage and any number of other contractors – and of course – the benefits ripple through to the whole community. 

That sounds like a win for everyone Angela, how did Norton get involved with Toll Treatment? 

I believe Norton has done small amounts in the past (like numerous other companies), but in December 2015, Norton focused on establishing the arrangement with one client which has since increased to five companies – with the potential for many more.  What’s exciting, is that Norton is taking the initiative to open its milling services on a much broader scale.

It’s still early days though, and of course there are still some challenges – but I believe that Norton’s new emphasis on toll treatment has put it on the cusp of an industry-initiative which has the potential to be a real winner for WA.

So is this common in the industry and what would be your advice to other miners?

There is nothing new about toll treatment per se, and it’s fairly common for small mining companies to ask larger companies to process their ore, otherwise they might not be able to mine at all. However, what is not common (and I don’t know of any others who are doing it), is for a larger company to actively promote toll treatment as a service to smaller companies.

My advice would be to take a firm attitude of helping each other to achieve common goals of prospering our companies, our people and our community. Whether big or small, the more we work for the success and betterment of others, the more secure and prosperous our own future will be.

That's great to hear Angela, any program that collectively benefits the whole industry and community is important. How did you get involved with Toll Treatment? 

It was quite an interesting turn of events really. Prior to Norton, I worked as a Mine Geologist – doing everything from wire-framing and modelling, to drill proposals and pit closures. However, often filling-in for the Chief Geologist helped me to develop my skills including coordinating work, reporting and dealing with all levels of management in different companies. This experience has set me up perfectly for my current role.

After a redundancy and then having a second baby, I was contracted by Norton specifically to clear a large backlog of logging. It was a time when jobs were very scarce, so I happily cleared some core, moved into the pool of Project Geologists in the Resource Definition Team, and at the start of toll treatment, was nominated as Toll Treatment Liaison by the Geology Manager – but I don’t think any of us had any idea how much would be involved.

What does your job entail? 

At the start, it was all new. There was only the contract between the companies there were no procedures in place. So my first job was to establish an operating procedure for both companies, track the haulage, and communicate and coordinate with the companies and the haulage contractor. Reporting on a daily, weekly and monthly basis quickly became an essential part of the process – so writing a tracking program became an immediate priority. 

I keep the processing team up to date with grade trends and other things affecting the blend; I advise contractors where to dump their loads; I calculate payments and royalties; and I’m always answering questions from all levels of management (within all of the companies). Then there is scheduling of toll treatment through the mobile crusher; tracking of mining status, assays and processing; EOM reporting for the DMP; and a lot of coordination. All of these activities make the job fast-paced and really interesting.

As more clients come on board, these functions continue to grow. Dealing with potential new clients, the client’s auditors, investors and bankers sometimes makes me feel like I work in public relations.

As a geologist, what else are you involved with?

Sure, I’m part of the Resource Definition team and still actively participate.  Actually, my last drill proposal had very good results and is now in the block model development stage. It may well become our next pit!  

I’m also the safety representative for the Geology Department and present at the monthly toolbox meetings, do risk assessments (such as for shifting the fleet), and may be participating in a fleet shift very soon.

Why do you support the Gold Industry Group?

I am very community orientated myself, so any organisation that helps to make the industry I love more community orientated is a very big winner.  

I was also really taken by GIG’s Women in Gold initiative – and really sorry I missed the inaugural event!

What are your passions outside of work?

Well first up, I’m a mother of two gorgeous young children, and they are a huge priority for me. I love athletics, and back in my school days, represented Tasmania in various events. I was even privileged to run with the Olympic Torch for the 2000 Olympics. I also love dancing and won Dancesport Championships in 2002, 2003 & 2005.

I was a volunteer Firefighter, and participated in the winning team (as medic) at the Kalgoorlie Emergency Response Competition in 2013.