Mining is for the adventurous - International Rock Day

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Tuesday, 13 July 2021 |

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For International Rock Day, we spoke to Ritipurna Das, Geologist at our Agnew mine in Australia, about her career in geology and working in mining.

"Mining is for the inquisitive who are driven and ready to take on adventure. The mining environment is volatile, things change underground every day and you need to be willing to try new things and take responsibility."

Please tell us about your career so far.

My career has involved a lot of travel starting from India where I finished my degree in geology and then moving to Melbourne to complete a post-grad degree in geology. I started my career as a graduate geologist at Kalgoorlie and finally arrived at Agnew as FIFO mine geologist. It's been a huge transition from India to where I am today and so far it has been exciting, insightful and adventurous.

What does your current role entail?

I am working as a mine geologist in the Agnew underground gold mine. Basically I assess the geology, structural characteristics and assay information of ore formation to advise and assist the underground production.

When did you know geology was something you wanted to study and pursue as a career?

I loved going on adventure trips with my dad as a child and collected rocks from all the hiking trips we did. So when it came to choosing a major, it was an easy choice. I mean which other discipline will take you to scenic canyons and let you fill your rock museum with pretty crystals.

Were you ever concerned about working in geology and mining as a woman?

At the start I had my inhibitions given that it is a male-dominated industry and has a low retention rate for women. However, as I started working my perception evolved. I have made some great friends, got to work with people from different cultures and always felt welcomed. 

What kind of skills, qualifications and characteristics do you believe you need to be a geologist and a good one?

A bachelor's degree in geology would qualify you to work as a geologist. However, the subject has more to it than just an academic qualification. Though geology is not all about being a total rock nerd, passion is important. Passion for the subject changes your perception of it, and passion comes with time. Once you dive into the intricacies of geology, it is no longer a subject where you memorise rock names, it turns into a delightful hobby.

I guess this stands true for any discipline. There is no point pursuing any discipline if you don't fall in love with it. That way we are motivated and inspire others to do the same. Also when you are surrounded by awesome geologists, you are bound to become one yourself.

For many rocks are just inert things. What stories can they tell?

Unlike others, geologists literally can see life in a rock. Looking at a rock, we can tell the history of a planet at a certain point of time, which is totally awesome. These stories are important for knowing what the earth was in the past and what it is going to do in the future, which will help us prepare to better protect the environment.

What do you enjoy about working at Gold Fields and Agnew specifically?

The culture here. The team I work with promotes a transparent work culture where the leaders and other employees share a healthy bond, communications are open and seniors always encourage team engagement. We work long shifts (12 hours) and this friendly approach increases our productivity, keeps us motivated and makes work enjoyable. 

Why do you believe increasing the number of women in STEM is so important?

More women would reduce the gender disparity that prevails in STEM today ushering in a new era of equality. Having women on board will boost the diversity of the field besides adding a different perspective to science like a 'fresh eyes' approach to a problem. By using their unique experiences women can come up with innovations and solutions to problems that may have not been considered.

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