A diamond drill rig at Newmont’s Tanami Underground Gold Mine.

The geology departments’ daily core review.

The Tanami Desert in Australia’s Northern Territory. Credit: Ben Nichols @rockpoolphotography.

Dingoes are one of many local species found it the Tanami. Credit: Ben Nichols @rockpoolphotography.

It’s been more than a year since we last spoke to you Sarah about your honours thesis on the Pinjarra Orogen. Can you share the results with us?

My results are still unavailable at the moment as my main supervisor is focusing on his new title as head of the department at Curtin University. I hope to publish the results this year which will be exciting!

Congratulations on your first role as a geologist at Newmont Australia’s Tanami gold mine. Why did you choose to join Newmont?

I was initially attracted to Newmont’s two-year structured graduate program as it would allow me to continue learning and developing as a professional whilst surrounded by people who are happy to offer advice and take on a mentoring role. I knew I wanted to work in a dynamic and collaborative environment and Newmont offers this and more as a global company. Even though it’s a global company, Newmont has an inclusive and diverse culture where all employees are recognised, appreciated for their contribution and valued as individuals. This culture helps the company to progress and innovate into the next era of mining and that’s something I really admire and find myself lucky to be a part of.

What does your day-to-day work involve and what is your favourite part of your current role?

As a mine geologist at Tanami underground gold mine in the Northern Territory, I’m responsible for the safe execution of geological tasks related to day to day operation. I contribute to the design, implementation and monitoring of diamond drill programs. I liaise with drilling contractors and drill and blast engineers and collect accurate and reliable geological data from drill core. One of the best parts of my job is that every day is different. My mornings consist of various tasks that need to be executed daily, however after that I might head underground to map or visit the drill rigs, go driving off-road to the regional surface rigs or collaborate with other departments. My role is very dynamic and I’m constantly learning and helping the Tanami team advance the mine into a top tier deposit. Working in such a large company also offers strong personal development opportunities. I’ve already been given so much support as a graduate; receiving internal and external training, visiting different sites to gain different perspectives and working with graduates from all over Australia in different disciplines.

What has been your biggest challenge in your new role?

Starting in any new company and role is always a daunting prospect, having to learn the team dynamic, the expectations set upon you and trying to understand how you can get the most out the new experience. When I started with Newmont as a graduate in July of last year, I was the only new starter which meant I had a variety of mentors who were willing to give me their time and energy to go above and beyond in training me for my new role.

As the industry is now picking up again and more money is being invested into exploration, a lot of new roles were created resulting in our team growing. Beginning my eighth month with the team, I’m currently facing my biggest challenge assisting with the training of multiple new starters. Having the chance to be trained one-on-one I understand the high standard of training that everyone deserves. The challenge of training people is that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and I’m learning to recognise when teaching methods should be adjusted to suit an individual so that everyone is getting the most out of their training.

What’s it like working FIFO in the mining industry?

Unlike other sites which are relatively close to civilisation, the Tanami is a fly-in fly-out (FIFO) operation and is one of the most isolated mine sites in Australia. Working FIFO is a very particular lifestyle which like any career comes with pros and cons. Being relatively young with no commitments at home I actually really enjoy working away on site. Your body gets used to working long shifts and you’re compensated for those hours and harsh conditions – such as extreme temperatures and terrains, dust and wildlife – that a lot of careers don’t experience. Compressing your working hours into one work week means your rest and relaxation period at home can be separate and allows me the opportunity to travel a lot more. Although everyone is a long way from home, the Tanami strives to form its own little community and is successful in creating its own home away from home.

What have you learnt since being on the job and about the gold industry?

Looking back at my previous employment in retail and with entry level internships into the industry, I’m able to make great comparisons to my current role. Beginning my first full-time position I’ve learnt so much about myself and how I operate in high pressure situations, being able to juggle and execute meaningful tasks, taking ownership of my responsibilities and gaining overall confidence in my decisions and communication with colleagues.

On a larger scale, I’ve learnt that the resource sector is often leading other industries in innovation, safety and diversity. However, there is still a very negative stigma about mining and unfortunately the importance of how vital and fundamental the resources that we extract are to the lives we lead, isn’t always understood. Mining has risks and like any business sometimes things can go wrong. It seems that the media always target these negatives and so it’s great to have organisations such as the Gold Industry Group acting as conduits for positive awareness to the public, focusing on the amazing things that the sector has contributed to our local communities and the world.

What advice would you give to those thinking about studying a mining related discipline?

Like I mentioned in a previous article, my biggest piece of advice for any student is to make the most of opportunities given to you and to actively seek them out whilst studying. There are so many different forms of support, whether it be through mentor programs, industry meet-ups, scholarships, bursaries, vacation work or simply joining a society, which can leave you in a better position when you graduate and enter the workforce. It’s also great to see more and more companies marketing the industry to women as well, highlighting the variety of roles that exist and making rosters family-friendly.

What are your greatest career achievements to date?

My greatest career achievement to date would have been completing my honours project at Curtin University. I loved all aspects of my honour’s thesis from collecting samples at the start of the project, analysing and interpreting data in the labs and finally writing my dissertation and presenting it, it was such a rewarding year and journey. Subsequently being awarded the WA School of Mines Silver Medal and the Australian Institute of Geoscientists Medal for my dissertation really brought everything full circle, knowing that my hard work and perseverance during that past year had paid off and was also widely acknowledged. Various other scholarships, including the Gold Industry Group, bursaries and internships not only helped me develop my critical thinking and independent learning skills, but I also gained various mentors from top-tier mining companies, attended and presented at scientific conferences and collaborated with groups aiming to promote the mining industry to the wider community.

What does the future hold?

One of the central platforms of Newmont's two-year graduate program is the ability to relocate to another Newmont Operations site after 12 months of service. As such, in 2020 my rotation will take me to Kalgoorlie to work with KCGM in the Super Pit. This leaves me working and learning in an underground gold mine in the Northern Territory until then, before returning to Western Australia for open pit experience in one of Australia’s largest open pit gold mines. Longer term, I’m looking forward to developing my skills and knowledge of the industry as I continue working as a geologist on various sites before I eventually return to academia to complete a PhD.