One of Goldcorp’s core values is Empowering Others, with diversity being a cornerstone in how do our business. While more women are now pursuing careers in mining than ever before, it continues to be a male-dominated industry.
Above Ground recently spoke with two of Goldcorp’s female miners to get their perspectives on what it’s like working in the mining industry, and what advice they can offer for women entering the sector.
Originally from Mazapil, a small town in Zacatecas, Mexico, Elisa Martínez is an Electric Shovel Operator Specialist who initially began her career in the administration office at Peñasquito – one of Goldcorp’s largest mines. IIt was here that she began to get a better understanding of mining and how she saw her future in the sector.
“I remember seeing the trucks and shovels on site and thinking ‘I have to drive one of those’. These vehicles really caught my attention due to their sheer size and power, and from then on I did everything I could to achieve my dream of becoming an operator,” says Martinez.
“When I first started as an operator at Peñasquito, I drove a Komatsu 930 before moving on to an H160 motor grader. I’ve made a number of changes over the years and have driven a Caterpillar 24M and even hydraulic shovels that load 52 tonnes per bucket. Right now, I’m operating an electric shovel that has a 100-tonne per bucket capacity.”
Meanwhile, Heather Willis, an Underground Miner at Goldcorp’s Red Lake site in Ontario, had a very different introduction to the industry.
“My dad worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources and was a pits and quarries inspector. I was always around rocks and rocks interested me from a very young age. I studied geology at university, but switched to mining as I really enjoy being underground and prefer the hands-on aspect of the industry.”
Describing an average work day at Red Lake, Willis says: “Every day is different. I work at the Campbell Mine, so I do a variety of different jobs. Some days I am tramming and pulling chutes, and on other days I’m remote mucking or trucking. I work from the old upper levels that are captive stopes and track mining right down to the bottom on the 3900 ramp.”
Martinez describes her average day as an operator at Peñasquito as a busy one.
“All the operators meet at the store at 6:30am, before being transported to the mine. When we arrive, we kick things off with a safety briefing and then receive our instructions for the day. Before I get to work, I carry out an individual safety inspection of my vehicle,” she explains. “Once I confirm the vehicle is safe to operate, I get to work. The shift runs from 7 to 7 – in other words, around 11 hours of operating the shovel and loading dozens of Komatsus.”
Describing what it’s like being a women in such a male-dominated industry, Martínez explains: “It’s not always easy, because you do still come across some men with macho attitudes, who aren’t necessarily used to seeing a woman progressing. With that said, this is a small minority and the vast majority of our colleagues are extremely encouraging. One of these colleagues is Álvaro Ortiz.
“Álvaro always used to say to me that I need to open the first door, so that the other doors will follow. This was really motivating for me and it taught me to have faith in myself and also to recognize the unique talents that female miners bring to the industry.”
Meanwhile, Willis has a slightly different perspective noting: “I am a volunteer firefighter, and also a member of the Red Lake Mine Rescue team, so I am quite used to working in male-dominated working environments.”
When asked what she enjoys most about the mining industry, Martínez is quick to respond – everything.
“I love everything about it. I’m passionate about my work and I find something that I enjoy about every machine and every location. In fact, the bigger the machine, the greater my motivation and passion. I actually quite like that people are surprised by what I do, and they often ask whether I really am, in fact a shovel operator,” she adds.
“Thanks to my work, my family is able to live a better life and we have everything we need. A lot of my coworkers also acknowledge my work, which is really a great motivator for me.”
Meanwhile, Willis states that she really enjoys the variety that comes with underground mining.
“I enjoy the fact that even though I am often doing the same tasks every day, each day is so different and involves a lot of problem solving.”
When questioned on whether they have any advice for women entering the mining sector, Martínez has some suggestions.
“As a female miner, it’s important to remember that there is nothing you cannot overcome. Everything is possible and the key to succeeding is setting goals,” she explains.
“It’s important to never let yourself be underestimated by anyone and being a miner is not a question of gender, it’s a question of performance and talent.”
Willis adds: “Don’t be afraid to try it out. While the underground aspect of mining is not for everyone, there are a lot of different roles in each department that could use a female miner. If you see a role that you think is a good fit – go for it!”