The mining industry is a dynamic, exciting, and an amazingly diverse sector with more than 120 occupations ranging from skilled trades to high tech professionals.
If mining is an industry you are considering a career in, have you considered what it would be like to be an Exploration Manager in mining?
Pippa Jeffcock an Exploration Manager tells us all about her job.
By: Pippa Jeffcock
“The day starts before dawn with a quick shower and some breakfast in the staff canteen. At about 0610 we queue up outside the paramedics’ centre to do a breathalyser test for alcohol. If someone is found to have any alcohol in their blood, even the most minute amount, they are dismissed on the spot and sent home on the first available shuttle flight. Drug testing and strenuous health checks are carried out on all expats before they are contracted to work in remote sites. This is because good health is essential for working in remote exploration as it can take two days to get to a reasonable hospital.
I get to the office about 06.20 and do a quick ten-minute review of emails and anything that has come in to my desk overnight. At 06.30 there is the daily safety briefing where we cover all aspects of the previous day’s safety concerns and get updates on previously flagged safety issues. All of the drilling, geology and laboratory personnel are present for the meeting, which is compulsory. Generally, there is a topic of the day aimed at the education of local staff as regards malaria prevention, clean drinking water, dumping of rubbish etc. I like to pick out someone to speak about anything they saw the day before which was unsafe or a hazard and how they dealt with the situation. Tasks are assigned to named individuals who are responsible for the issue at hand such as a cluttered loading bay or persons breaking the camp speed limit. Sometimes one of the drill contractors will talk about a toolbox topic which concerns everyone. Any environmental concerns are also raised at this meeting and may be escalated to the Environmental Department if necessary.
When the safety briefing is finished, the drill contractors give me the figures from the drilling completed on the day/night shifts the day before. These figures are put into a daily report which is sent to London before 0800. Any planned hole completions and surveys are programmed in with the senior geology staff. New trackways to planned drill sites are also discussed and requests are sent to the Engineering team for any construction or road building that is necessary. The Environmental team are advised of any completed drill site so that they can start rehabilitation of the pad. The drill and geology teams separate into units which will carry out the work programme for the day. Senior Project geologists direct the juniors to work on drill pads or laboratory duties for the day.
At 0800 I have the daily management meeting where the head of each department gives a snapshot of the work being carried out in their department and alerts other departments to future cooperation that will be required. This meeting can go on for more than an hour if there is a lot of business. It is generally at this meeting that I plan the rest of my day such as who I have to talk to and who’s help I need to carry out the drilling programme in good time.
After the management meeting, I have a large cup of tea before dealing with any issues that have come up from the day before or prevention of new ones. These matters can range from important to the apparently trivial, but never underestimate the importance of food in a remote site. These meetings takes all day except for a quick lunch which I tend to eat after the rush. The food is very basic, boarding school food, lots of stews and rice. Examples of meetings are:
• Talk to the kitchens about the food on drillers’ night shift
• Talk to the carpenters about finishing the extension to the core shed
• Talk to logistics manager about the delay in the delivery of core boxes from South Africa
• Talk to the drill company about buying their extra empty container to use for storage
• Talk to the driving instructor about training the geologists to carry teams up and down the hill in the mud
• Talk to the laboratory about the order for new blanks and sample bags
• Talk to health and safety about the new core saw and apparent deficiencies in safety instructions
• Talk to HR about new drill crew training and induction
• Talk to camp manager about housing new drill crews and laundry delays
• Talk to HR about a disciplinary matter concerning a geologist and plan a hearing
• Talk to the Senior project geologists about changing drill hole locations due to change in geology or safety considerations
• Talk to Environmental team about the bee swarm occupying the drill and costing $100,000 a day in lost production
• Talk to kitchen about amount of chilli in food (used to disguise rotten meat)
• Discuss the possibility of one drill contractor lending pipe to another drill contractor
• Talk to the customs agent about the delay in importing the drill supplies
• Borrow/lend a car to another department on pain of death return in 24 hours
• Talk to carpenters about new shelving for office
• Talk to the drill contractor with the worst metres per shift about why this is and what we can do to help improve it
• Talk to travel department about bumping people off shuttle flights after 9 weeks on shift.
• Prepare for visit from Head Office
• Spend time in the core shed making sure that the juniors members of the team are doing logging and sampling with supervision
• Do some subtle mentoring in core logging
• Go over cross sections generated by Vulcan with Senior geos to make sure they make sense
• Drink more tea
• Talk to the paramedics about someone’s health
• Adjust leave rota to account for Ramadan and holiday leave for Muslim workers
• Speak to head office about redundancies and project closure rumours
• Organise training for geologists in Vulcan
• Organise first aid training for exploration teams
• Take photographs of last night’s moths still on walls outside office
• Try to get up to the drill rigs to monitor progress and chat to the drillers and geologists
• Ferry people around the site as I have an advanced driving qualification
When all of these, and other matters are dealt with it is usually about 7pm. Some people go for a beer. I go for some more bland food and then to my room to watch an episode of Father Ted for sanity. I go to sleep about 2030 so that I get my 8 hours.
We work 13 days and have one Sunday off in a fortnight. I usually sleep on my day off although it’s hard not to go to the office for an hour or two to try and catch up with weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly reports that also need to be written. Sometimes we play boules or throw a ball around. The satellite tv never works because the clouds interfere with transmission and it rains like being under the sea 8 months a year. Sometimes we get to see half a rugby match. The internet is always worse than rubbish and you can’t use Skype because the speed is too slow. People get very annoyed that there is never enough bandwidth for the number of people who use it. I try to send updates to my family on email or Facebook but I never mention where I am or who I work for.
This is not a job for the faint-hearted or the lazy but it has constant variety and mental challenges and invention of new sandwich fillings which keeps me very busy. Family life can suffer from remote working and there are a lot of divorced expats because of the long absences. Some people only survive one shift and then you never see them again. Other people drink but not enough to get fired the next day. I like the rotation because I get well paid and I have three weeks holiday after a nine-week shift to go to the Caribbean, watch sport or see my brothers and sisters as I am single. I also love the chance to see new cultures and wildlife and not wear a suit or work in a cubicle”.