Barrick has many accomplished women working in all areas of its operations. In the fifth of seven interviews with some of these women, we feature Pizye Nankamba, Mine Geologist at Barrick’s Hemlo mine in Ontario, Canada.
Born in Zambia, Pizye studied geological sciences at the University of Zambia and then worked as an exploration geologist for an Australian gold and copper exploration company in Zambia. She later attended Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, earning a Master’s degree in geology. She joined the Hemlo mine in 2011.
Beyond Borders: Why did you choose a career in mining?
Pizye Nankamba: I chose a career in exploration because of the great support I received from my professors and supervisors in the field. I had two job opportunities after graduating from the University of Zambia: one in environmental geology, the other in exploration geology. The environmental geology job had a higher remuneration package. However, my father suggested that I would do better in exploration because that was where my true interests lay.
Is there someone who served as a mentor to you and what was the most important thing that you learned from them?
My first supervisor at Zambezi Resources in Zambia was an excellent mentor. He got me through tough situations with unwavering support. It wasn’t easy managing an exploration drilling camp in a very remote location supervising 30 men. That taught me how to deal with challenging situations head on as my career progressed. My first supervisor when I started working underground at Hemlo was also invaluable and very supportive.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
My biggest challenge was overcoming the gap between my tertiary education and the mining environment. Most aspects of the mine geologist’s work are learned on the job. Networking is also a challenge because, more often than not, mining districts are off the beaten path and this limits the ability to participate in conferences and seminars.
How has the industry changed in its approach and attitude towards diversity since you first entered the field?
It has changed drastically, especially now that you can go to a mining conference and attend events or symposiums targeted specifically to women. This obviously inspires other women like me to join and stay in the industry.
What can the industry do better to accommodate change and diversity in your particular area of endeavor?
Some mining companies have set quotas on the inclusion of women in their companies; however this shouldn’t be about quotas. If there are women or minorities that meet the job criteria, then they deserve an equal chance of being represented in employment.
And I believe there are more qualified women entering the industry, and that this trend is only going to accelerate. Nowadays, when you attend a mining conference, there’s almost always a session about women in mining. These events include panels of women who work in the industry and the young women who attend these events see this and are exposed to a career option that they may not have considered before.
What are some things that have surprised you about being a woman in a male dominated field?
What has surprised me the most is that men sometimes don’t take you too seriously! It takes them a while to come around and, in the meantime, you have to prove yourself and earn their respect.
What advice would you give to women considering mining as a career?
Get as much exposure to exploration and mining before making up your mind to dedicate yourself to a mining career. Talk to seasoned professionals who can give you practical advice and guidance. And, if you do take it on, put your hard hat on and ‘enjoy’ the challenges.