Flying the flag for the quarrying sector's younger generation

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Flying the flag for the quarrying
sector’s younger generation
Ann-Marie Farr is the senior                                                                         to design pit geometry and haul roads,
                                                                                                     and through use of surfaces, we are able to
geological engineer in national                                                                      determine current and future resources.
overlay (quarries) at Boral’s                                                                        We can use the programs to demonstrate
Malvern office in Melbourne.                                                                         the stage of pit designs.”
                                                                                                       Ann-Marie estimates that she would spend
She talks to Damian Christie                                                                         40 per cent of her time out in the field,
about how she became involved                                                                        “accumulating the work, inspecting sites,
in the extractive industry,                                                                          and when there’s drilling programs, you’re
                                                                                                     out there supervising the rig, logging
her work for the IQA’s new                                                                           core and taking samples”. The other 60
Young Members Network and                                                                            per cent is spent back in the office,
promotion of quarrying as a                                                                          “when you are working on the design
                                                                                                     or writing the reports that come from the
prospective career for young                                                                         drilling programs”.
women and men alike.                                                                                   Ann-Marie most enjoys the outdoor
                                                                                                     component of her work, in which she
“I was always interested in an outdoor                                                               oversees the development of many quarry
career,” says Ann-Marie Farr, recalling her                                                          sites per year. “I enjoy working outside a
schooling and her initial career interests.                                                          lot. I can pretty much get out whenever I
“I was good at maths and science, so I                                                               want to - there’s always work to be done!
knew I wanted an engineering degree or                                                               I get to travel around Australia a fair bit.
equivalent. After some looking around,                                                               Travelling gives you a great opportunity to
I found geological science the most                                                                  network with new people in the industry.
interesting course.”                                                                                 I also enjoy the creativity of the design
  Ann-Marie subsequently graduated with                                                              process; you can have a bit of an influence
                                                  Ann-Marie Farr says that as a teenager, she was    in how the quarries progress.
a geological engineering degree after studying
                                                  always interested in pursuing an outdoor career.     “Also, within the role, you learn a lot
at RMIT University in Melbourne. She
left Melbourne for Tasmania, where she                                                               about other subjects, for instance, the
worked as a graduate geological engineer                                                             environmental impacts you have to be
on a mine site for two years. “I worked for       who may have to go out to the bush to              mindful of, planning approvals you need
Australian Bulk Minerals, an iron ore mine        work. It’s very attractive in that sense           from local councils. You can get involved
at Savage River, in the north west of Tasmania.   [to stay closer to home]”.                         in a broad range of issues that can impact
My main tasks involved mapping the mine             When asked to explain what a senior              on quarry development, and these can be
faces looking for potential stability defects.    geological engineer does, Ann-Marie replies:       very challenging.
  “I monitored unstable faces through the         “In my current role, I’m involved in                 “A lot of public concerns about quarry
use of surveys, was involved in clay capping      inspecting the high walls and the pits in          developments are based on environmental
waste dumps which produced acid mine              the quarries and doing audits on them in           factors, for instance, a vulnerable species
drainage and other environmental issues           terms of stability. I am also involved in a        of flora or fauna. You really have to work
like ground water monitoring. It was a            lot of quarry planning and development,            hard for approvals to go in and disturb that
huge learning curve, putting all the theory       and resource estimations. For example,             area. The perception of the community
I’d learned at university into practice. Most     we do diamond drilling programs to                 about quarries in general, and getting
importantly, I learned how to document            determine the level of resources we have           them on side, is also important. Generally,
all my findings and discussions with              in existing quarries and some greenfield           the public are quite supportive, but
management and to clearly communicate,            sites as well, and from there, we devise           they need to be informed about the
especially if I thought there was an issue        potential designs for new quarries or              rehabilitation options.”
with one of the faces.”                           extensions to current quarries.
  After returning to Melbourne, Ann-Marie           “We use two computer packages for the            CHALLENGING PUBLIC MYTHS
joined Boral, initially as a planning             quarry designs. One - Microstation - is a          AND MISCONCEPTIONS
engineer in its Melbourne-based quarries          CAD (computer-aided design) program                Ann-Marie describes a “hard hat” career
division before moving into the National          and the other is more of a mining program          like quarrying as not “your general run-
Overlay division. She opted for the quarry        - Surpac - and that helps with the design          of-the-mill stuff - it’s quite interesting and
industry over the mining industry because         work and all-round design development              exciting. I really got into it when I first
it “is a great substitute for people like me      in calculations. The programs enable us            went into the mining industry.” She would

                                                                                                                        Quarry November 2008 63

                                                                                                        they realise that there are incentives for
                                                                                                        sustainability and restoration, that it’s not
                                                                                                        just all about digging dirt and driving
                                                                                                        trucks. I certainly think there’s scope as
                                                                                                        well to promote some of the new technologies
                                                                                                        we use, such as the software programs
                                                                                                        of the business, which will be attractive
                                                                                                        to today’s generation who are very
                                                                                                        computer literate and may not realise
                                                                                                        that there are programming opportunities in
                                                                                                        our industry.”

                                                                                                        ESTABLISHING THE YOUNG
                                                                                                        MEMBERS NETWORK
                                                                                                        Nevertheless, Ann-Marie is playing her
                                                                                                        own part in waving the flag for the industry
                                                                                                        in its bid to promote the positive side of
                                                                                                        quarrying to both prospective and new
                                                                                                        workers. She has recently accepted an
                                                                                                        invitation from the IQA to act as the
                                                                                                        national co-ordinator of the Young Members
                                                                                                        Network (YMN), a national network that
                                                                                                        aims to provide young IQA members and
                                                                                                        newcomers to the quarry industry with
 Ann-Marie at a blast site, where she is involved in planning and supervising Boral’s drill programs.   guidance, support and the opportunities to
                                                                                                        develop their careers within the industry.
                                                                                                          While the YMN is nominally aimed at
                                                                                                        IQA members from 18 up to the age of
like to see more women in the extractive              strongly of the view that they are also           40, the network will not exclude newly
industry, but states that there are numerous          some of the strongest equal opportunity           joined IQA members above that age range.
public perceptions and misconceptions                 industries as well.                               Ann-Marie says that while she expects the
about the industry which are leading not                “I guess it’s just the way the industry         majority of participants will be in their
only to a low participation in the industry           started out, being predominantly male-            twenties and thirties, “the network will
by women, but by men as well.                         driven, but it is definitely moving away          be available to anyone there who needs
  “A lot of people - certainly some women             from that. Even during my time in the             it”, in particular “new people to the
I’ve met - are not even aware of what the             mining industry, the number of women              industry who aren’t that familiar with
industry is about when you explain what               was increasing. At the moment, mining             how quarrying works”.
you do and what you work for. They look a             and quarrying are still ‘blokey’ industries,        Ann-Marie’s first task as the YMN
bit dumbfounded when I say I work in the              but there are more and more women                 national co-ordinator is to recruit and
quarry industry. In general, regardless of            becoming involved.                                organise “co-ordinators from every state
whether it’s a woman or a man, the quarry               “I think it’s also different times as well.     and set up a framework of how it is going
industry is not that well known. If you say           About 30 years ago, there weren’t the             to work. In particular, we have to discuss
you work in the mining industry, some                 opportunities for women to get involved           how frequently we can all meet as a group
people will respond to that. But sometimes            in mining or quarrying careers, but now           over the course of the year”.
the quarry industry doesn’t enjoy that                there is, and I guess the industry is moving        “The service we’re aiming to provide
same perception when you tell people. I               ahead with the times. Some positions              initially is a blog on the IQA website,” she
think it’s just a general lack of awareness           within the quarry industry are still manual       explains, “in which people can ask each
amongst people, not just women.                       and intensive, but there are lots of areas        other questions about issues they encounter
  “I think people have the attitude that              now in which women can become involved,           in the field or post advice on things that
quarrying involves people driving dump                such as occupational health and safety,           they are working on. So, as a starting point,
trucks or operating and repairing machinery           design work and environmental analysis.”          it’s going to be a swap meet for information
and that it has a kind of ‘blokey’, labour-             While there is clearly a need for the           for people. Hopefully, the YMN will also
based character to it.”                               extractive industries to better educate the       provide guidance and assistance for people
  Ann-Marie agrees that one of the reasons            public and strip away a lot of common             who are uncertain about their direction
for the low participation of women in                 misconceptions, Ann-Marie concedes                within the industry, providing some career
the extractive and resources sectors (it is           it is a challenge. “It all comes back to          path advice and options about the training
believed that women in Australia comprise             communicating what the industry is about          they should do to get where they want
about 12 per cent of mining or construction           and outlining the different areas within the      to be.
employees) is that the industries are still           industry that people can become involved.           “Obviously, we’re still very early in
seen as “blokey”. However, she is also                I think people are very interested when           our preparations, but our intention is to

64 Quarry November 2008

organise events and forums which will           we will offer school leavers, but the YMN       members under 30 and then try to grow the
bring our younger members together and          may give them an opportunity to promote         network. It will take some time and effort
provide fundamental industry learning and       themselves and express their interest           to get the YMN out there, to get people
sessions. We’re also hoping to encourage        online. That would be one of the services       interested in it and for them to start using
younger members to contribute to technical      that we would try to introduce to students      it as a resource, so starting with those 40, if
papers for publication and to interviews        - promoting the young people/members            we can get them, would be great.” •
and work-related biographies online which       already working in the industry, running
will assist the YMN and the IQA in general      direct profiles of them, explaining the roles
                                                they have, and giving students some             At the time of the interview, Ann-Marie
to increase the industry’s exposure.”
  Ann-Marie says that while the YMN is          exposure to the senior members of the           confirmed that she had started to talk with
predominantly aimed at the institute’s          industry as well.”                              prospective state co-ordinators, both from
younger members, she hopes the network            Ann-Marie estimates that there are            within Boral and across other companies
will be able to also develop some educational   currently 40 members under the age of           and states. If you are interested in joining
initiatives for school leavers and students,    30 amongst the broader IQA member-              the YMN or would like some further
from Year 12 upwards.                           ship, an “ideal” number for starting the        information, contact Ann-Marie by email:
  “We still have to discuss exactly what        YMN. “That is our aim - to recruit all the

66 Quarry November 2008

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