In our third installment in our four-part series on gender diversity in our workplace we share the remarkable story of a Goldcorp employee who pushed herself beyond her comfort zone to carve out a career in a male-dominated culture as an underground miner.
This month marks a landmark event for Cerro Negro, the Argentine mining industry and specifically one individual; Yanina Colman. With the completion of her underground operator training program she not only represents the first female operator at the Mariana Norte mine and the Cerro Negro complex but is also a trailblazer within Argentina as the only known female underground miner. We sat down with her to learn more about her journey and what drove her towards becoming a miner:
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born in Formosa (Argentinian Province bordering Paraguay in the North), and I’ve been living in Perito Moreno, Santa Cruz in Patagonia for nine years with my 9-year-old son.
Where did you work before Goldcorp and how long have you worked at Cerro Negro?
Before, I worked as a cashier at a local supermarket and also at the gas station minimarket. I have now been at Cerro Negro for two and a half years.
What position did you have before moving into the mine operations?
I started as mine assistant with a 5×2 rotation for eight months where I took on administrative work. After that, I was moved over to the tool crib at Eureka and then Mariana Central. Later on I worked at the Control Room and now I’m underground working on the haul truck. I’ve gone through several stages.
Had you ever imagined you would work in a mine?
No, never! When they called me from Goldcorp, I used to look at the tunnel and think “I’ll never go inside.” Until one day I had to go underground as a mine assistant. At first everything seemed strange but then when I asked to go back I climbed up the escape way and I liked it. I have met people who are claustrophobic but I loved it!
Why did you want to be a miner?
It was a pretty interesting initiative. Firstly, because I’ve always been interested in machines and especially the Jumbo. Whenever I had the chance I took pictures and examined it. Then I got the opportunity, while providing vacation relief for the Control Room Operator, to either work within the mine or be back at the office. Since I’ve already worked at the office, dealt with paperwork for 12 hours a day, I said “I’ll give [the mine] a try.” So that is how I started. I enjoyed the first training session and at first I was a bit uneasy with the fact that the equipment was taller than me; the tire was a lot taller than me! But after trying, I liked it and really it grabbed my attention. The good thing is that on my third training day I was already operating the equipment on surface and on my fifth day, when I felt more confident, I entered the mine and even took out loads of waste rock.
How were you received by the others in the team? What did your family think?
Really well, the most important thing is that I had support from my colleagues. Both they and the supervisors helped me a lot, they treated me really well. The trainer was fantastic, he was really patient. If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know if I would have been able to do it. I saw the machines, so tall, and thought “will I be able to deal with that!?” As for my parents, they are really happy and say “look at her, so brave”. My mom said I’ve always been courageous like that.
What would be your advice for women thinking about coming to work at Cerro Negro?
It’s positive both personally and professionally, because it helps you grow. You learn and grow a little day after day. So I would tell them to bring themselves to do it. They used to tell me “I don’t picture you there, you are perfectly dressed,” but that’s how it is, we are women and we also work.
What is your plan moving forward?
I’d like to train on the rest of the equipment. Now I’m a haul truck operator but in the event a coworker is absent I’d like to be able to replace them to support our team. I could then cover the entire haulage cycle with the truck and the scoop. Later on I would like to train on the Jumbo and the Bolter to gain more experience. Besides, the Jumbo has always caught my eye!
Any other comments you would like to pass along?
First and foremost, I’d like to thank my coworkers for their unconditional support. They were always there for me, helping me advance and telling me I could do it. On the other hand, being the first woman miner at Cerro Negro encourages me to keep learning and growing every day and if everything goes well, I’ll soon be trained on the scoop. I’d like the rest of the women not to be afraid but be encouraged as we need to show what we are capable of accomplishing. It is difficult to be away from our families for 14 days but here we have a second family that is always helping us succeed.
With Mariana Norte moving towards production in the next year, Yanina will continue to provide a source of inspiration as she continues on her path of development. Teamed with Mine Captain, Eugenia Bertollo, Mariana Norte and Cerro Negro have starting to redefine previous stereotypes of an Argentina miner. “We are incredibly fortunate to have Yanina and Eugenia as integral parts of our operational team” commented Project Manager Rory Grunerud, “They took the opportunities available and completely exceeded all expectations.”