Women in Mining UK (WIM UK) is an organisation that promotes the employment, retention and progress of women in the mining industry. Everyone is welcome to join Women in Mining UK regardless of age, location or gender. Membership is free! Please go here to sign up.

The geoscientists featured in this article are volunteers at WIM UK and represent a snapshot of the many geological careers available in mining. These women share their stories of why they became geoscientists, what they do day to day in their jobs, and how geoscientists are key in making sure mining companies can produce the necessary metals and minerals that the world needs.

We hope you find inspiration from their stories!

Sarah Mojuetan is a recent Mining Engineer Graduate from the Camborne School of Mines and has been volunteering with WIM UK since 2020.

“Whilst studying Geology at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria, my interest in minerals, particularly gemstones (used in jewellery), really began. During this time, I embarked on several field trips and these gave me the opportunity to see the different rocks that host rubies, emerald and sapphires. More so, I realised that tonnes of metals (copper, lithium, nickel) go into the production of virtually everything we use on Earth (such as smartphones, electric vehicles, buildings and construction).

I enrolled in the Mining Engineering Masters at the Camborne School of Mines with the aim of learning how solid minerals and metals can be extracted sustainably from the Earth.”

Dr. Holly Elliott is a geology lecturer and researcher at the University of Derby and has be a volunteer with WIM UK since 2016.

“Have you heard of rare earth elements? These elements make up some of the most important components in your mobile phones, tablets and computers and are incredibly important for combating climate change as we use them in wind turbines and electric cars.  

My job is undertaking research to understand rare earth element deposits. I have spent many years travelling the world to study these deposits and have had some amazing experiences – I have been wild camping in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia; seen rhinos, elephants, and giraffes in Namibia and Malawi; and visited rare earth rich material that has exploded out of the top of a volcano in Italy. It really has been an exciting career so far!”

Jo Birch is a Senior Mining Hydrogeologist and Project Manager with Golder, an international company providing consulting services in the fields of earth and environment.  Jo has volunteered at WIM UK since 2019. You can learn more about Jo’s career by watching her #WIMinspire video.

“I have always had a keen interest in and love of earth sciences.  I studied Environmental Science, Geography, Geology and Languages for my A-Levels which fuelled my passion to explore a career in geosciences.  I studied Environmental Earth Sciences for my undergraduate degree and later chose to specialise my geoscience skills through a Masters degree in Hydrogeology. 

As a Mining Hydrogeologist, my role covers many diverse aspects of mine water management: understanding the groundwater conditions to ensure mines can be developed and operated safely, efficiently, and without causing unacceptable impacts on local and regional groundwater resources. 

Mining often gets a bad reputation, but society cannot function without it.  If an everyday object hasn’t grown from nature, it’s been made of materials that have been mined.  Mining can and should be carried out responsibly and sustainably, and I find it incredibly rewarding to be able to positively influence the groundwater aspects of mining projects in this way.”

Kathryn Leaney works for the diamond mining company, De Beers, as a Revenue Analyst in the Mineral Resource Management Team. She has been a WIM UK volunteer since 2018.

“I started studying geology at school as I had always enjoyed physical geography.  My interest piqued from there and I went on to study Geological Sciences at the University of Leeds and chose to follow the ‘Minerals Pathway’ syllabus that was designed for those who want to work in mining geology and exploration.

As part of my degree, I studied abroad and spent a year in Adelaide, Australia.  I travelled throughout Australia, the South Pacific Islands and New Zealand, visiting interesting geological sites and mines along the way. This included seeing an active volcano in Vanuatu, an opal mining town in the Australian Outback, and the big rock, Uluru!

Following university, I pursued a career in the gemstone and diamond mining industry, enrolling in a course in rough diamond sorting and planning in Antwerp, Belgium. This was followed by a short stint working at an auction house in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. I ended up with my current role, which is working with geologists, mineral resource managers and finance teams in Botswana and Canada to forecast and analyse diamond production, by volunteering at WIM UK and meeting people in the mining industry.”

Olivia Hogg is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge. She has volunteered at WIM UK since 2020.

“As the era of fossil fuels comes to an end, renewable energy is on the rise, which means more wind turbines, more solar panels and more battery storage. What do all these things have in common? An abundance of metals! But where and how are we going to find enough metals to meet global rising demands associated with the green energy transition? 

The metals we need in everyday life are linked to volcanoes! This is where my research comes in to play. Chlorine is hugely important as it bonds to metals in magmas, transporting and concentrating them in the subsurface into things called ores – where we seek most of our metals! My role as a PhD student is to research the effect chlorine has on these metals. Hopefully this research is going to help us understand where metal ores come from in a quest to aid more sustainable mining activities. We use some really exciting research techniques, like flying drones through volcanic plumes, to answer these questions.”

Grace Howe is an Exploration Geologist for SRK Exploration, a consultancy company providing exploration services globally. Grace has volunteered for WIM UK since 2018.

“As an exploration geologist I find the minerals and metals that are used in the objects you use every day. 

My job means I get to travel all around the world and I love it! I have explored Egypt for the gold that goes into your jewellery and even your TV and smart phone. In Norway, I searched for the titanium that goes into sunscreen and forms the white pigment in paint. I have spent time in West African countries, such as Guinea and Liberia, exploring for iron ore, the main ingredient in the steel that your knives and forks are made from. In Zambia, Southern/Central Africa, I found nickel, an important component of rechargeable batteries, particularly for the ones used in electric vehicles, and copper, which is used mostly in electrical items such smart phones.

My travels mean I also get to have adventures, such as hiking through deserts, diving with turtles in the Red Sea, trekking through jungles with chimpanzees, and even swimming at the top of Victoria Falls!”

We hope these stories have shown you how much fun a career in geoscience can be. To learn more about mining, please join Women in Mining UK (WIM UK). Everyone is welcome regardless of age, location or gender, and membership is free. Please go here to sign up.

This article has been published in the October 2021 edition of the ENGIE Magazine.