Jenny Zena, Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) first female underground mine engineer, believes joining the Porgera mine a year-and-a-half ago was the best decision she has ever made.
“I want to be here for another 10 or 15 years, maybe a lifetime,” she says with a big smile. “I can see there are so many things to learn.”
Zena works in the dispatch section preparing reports on the day’s underground activities. She plans, sets targets and collects data from miners, maintenance and geologists and controls the distribution of equipment. Daily challenges include managing water, ventilation and illegal mining issues.
“What attracted me to Porgera were the many challenges and opportunities. I saw it was a good place to develop my skills.”
It was a long way from the basics she learned studying mining engineering at University of Technology (Unitech), located in the PNG city of Lae. Zena wanted to be like her father, who was a mine electrician and shift foreman. Most important to Zena, her mother encouraged her to take up mining. At Unitech, she was one of three women in the mine engineering program and the only one to complete the four-year course. Before 2007, PNG legislation prevented women from working underground.
There are female geologists working underground at Porgera, and many women working above-ground: 175 permanent employees and 30 students. The site’s Security department leads the way on the number of women employed, followed closely by Maintenance, Community Relations and Environment.
“I would tell other women who might be thinking of a career in mining engineering to come here,” Zena says. “It’s interesting work and we are learning new things every day.”