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The beginning of a thrilling career at Damang - Abena Andoh-Mensah, Metallurgist - BTFTOnline

Thursday, 27 August 2020

It has been almost two years since I began what I will describe as "my thrilling career journey" with Abosso Goldfields Limited (Damang mine), but it feels like only yesterday having been working with so much excitement.

Working as a Metallurgist in one of the world's most prestigious mining firm, Gold Fields, is indeed a feat to cherish, and one that gives me so much joy. It was a dream come true when I was selected among 48 graduate trainees to work with Gold Fields' Tarkwa and Damang mines in 2018.

About a year and a half into the two-year program, I was employed by the company. I lack the words to adequately express how I felt upon receiving my appointment letter.

"The sky can only be the limit", has since become my favorite axiom considering the enormous opportunities that exist in the corridors of Gold Fields for both men and women who avail themselves to hard work, tenacity and dexterity.

About twenty (20) months of commitment, hard work and a generally positive attitude to work was recognised by Gold Fields, which I believe informed the company's decision to bring me onboard and be part of its global winning team.

Work description

My work is exciting and also provides me with great insights and opportunities to learn new things and improve on my skills. Currently, I am responsible for preparing metallurgical accounting reports, monitoring and optimising reagents and consumables used in gold processing. Additionally, I also assist in metallurgical inventory sample taking, monitoring and optimizing plant operations to increase productivity.

I fully recognise the task entrusted to me as a young trainee metallurgist, and that is why I have remained focused and determined in order not to disappoint those who believed in me and gave me this rare opportunity. Often, I break into a broad smile when I recall why I chose to pursue this career.

Growing up

The decision to become a metallurgist is definitely not by accident. I had known at age 18 the exact career path I needed to pursue after observing the activities of some artisanal small-scale miners in my neighborhood. That experience was timely since it was just after the completion of my senior high school education.

I grew up in Huni-Valley, a mining community in the Prestea-Huni Valley District of the Western Region. Artisanal small-scale mining is common in my community. I knew a number of small-scale miners who would always return home with a concentrate locally called "the black". They would add mercury to the substance, which they then used to process and extract gold. I became interested in what they do and visited their work stations one afternoon after my graduation from senior high school. Even then, I was struck by the unsafe manner in which the miners were extracting gold. It was this moment, witnessing the activities of the small-scale miners, that sealed my decision, and thus brought an end to my career dilemma.

As a child, I had always wanted to work in a male-dominated industry. Why are some jobs gender- biased? I would ask myself. I had contemplated on several male-dominated careers and after visiting the small-scale mining site, I became fascinated about gold processing. I was now certain about the career I wanted to pursue; I wanted to become a minerals engineer. That was my greatest discovery at the age of 18. And I knew I could achieve my aspiration once I set my mind to it.

Gold Fields Opportunities

Gold Fields offers life-changing opportunities including education, jobs and livelihood enhancement programmes for members of the 19 host communities of the Tarkwa and Damang mines. I was determined to take advantage of these opportunities.

I received a full scholarship from the Gold Fields' Ghana Foundation, which enabled me to obtain my bachelor's degree in Minerals Engineering from the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) in Tarkwa, Western Region. The Foundation had earlier supported my secondary education at the Tarkwa Senior High School.

I had yet another golden opportunity to tread my career path in 2018 when Gold Fields selected me to join the Damang mine as a graduate trainee after my national service. I was confident that I would make it because I knew I impressed the panel during the interview.

Graduate Trainee Programme

The graduate trainee programme is a two-year structured on-the-job training, which is designed to build a talent pipeline for Gold Fields and the mining industry in Ghana. The graduate trainees work with various departments including Mining, Engineering, Geology, Metallurgy, Finance, Human Resources, ICT, Supply Chain, Community Affairs and the Protection Services to gain a broader perspective of the mining operations.

I recall the insightful words of the Executive Vice President and Head of Gold Fields West Africa, Mr. Alfred Baku, during the launch of the graduate trainee programme in November 2018. He said that, the programme formed an integral part of the company's host community skills development strategy aimed at enhancing the quality of human capital in communities hosting the Tarkwa and Damang mines.

Indeed, Gold Fields invests in people, and I consider myself a valuable human resource for my community, Huni-Valley and Ghana as a whole. I am certain that my colleague trainees share similar sentiments.

Skills Acquired

In just one and half years, I have acquired knowledge and practical skills in gold processing that many can only dream of at the beginning of their career. Presently, I can confidently boast of my ability to work under minimum supervision and manage work pressure.

I continue to receive coaching and mentoring from all, especially my Metallurgical Manager, Madam Catherine Kuupol Kuutor, a strong, talented and result-oriented leader.

Madam Kuupol Kuutor insists on high performance and delivering on targets. I could not have asked for a better role model because she is a resilient manager and always willing to assist her subordinates to succeed. Her attitude to work is truly inspiring, and working under her has boosted my confidence. For career beginners in a male-dominated industry like me, it is crucial to have someone who encourages you to break boundaries, and I have found that person in Madam Kuupol Kuutor.

Gold Fields has prioritised female recruitment and development to ensure women are not left behind in the overall capital development framework within the company and in Ghana. This excites me a lot as a young female metallurgist. Gold Fields has given me the ladder to climb to the top of the mountain, and surely I will get there one day.  I will, therefore, continue to work hard, remain respectful to my senior colleagues and learn from them because I want to pursue my career as a minerals engineer to the highest level possible. I intend to enjoy it all the way.

Conclusion

Like my boss, Madam Catherine, I want to inspire other young girls in my community to know that there is no barrier in their development. I want them to believe in their capabilities. I want them to know that opportunities abound, so they can make it in life. For me, this is the beginning of an exciting career journey in the mining industry. I am determined to break the glass ceiling; spread my wings far and wide; and clinch the career success I desire.

As Steve Jobs once said, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you have not found it yet, keep looking. Do not settle." I have found my passion, and I believe I am doing great work because I love what I do. Ultimately, I want to look back someday and be content that I have had a fulfilling career. That's my ambition, and that's my resolve.


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