Rock to Road magazine celebrates 10 of the aggregates and roadbuilding industry’s young professionals rising up the ranks in their respective positions.
We had the opportunity to sit down and chat with all of the winners about what attracted them to the industry, their favourite projects, career advice for young people entering the industry.
Here is the second of 10 that we are featuring online this month.
Mine Manager Imperial Limestone, Texada Island, B.C.
For Sarah Bond, being introduced to the industry was sort of an accident. After graduating from McMaster University in Hamilton with her Bachelor of Engineering degree in 2008, she immediately started looking for work, but prospects weren’t great in Ontario.
“I started out by working for Lafarge [Canada] in Edmonton. I had applied to Lafarge because I graduated with a double cohort and there were not a lot of job opportunities in Ontario,” she says. “I wasn’t really focused on the mining world, but the job for Lafarge came up and I just loved it and stayed in the industry.”
Sarah started off in the company’s sand and gravel pits in Edmonton and worked at various plants in quality control, land management and permitting. She learned a lot through her time in Edmonton, but once an opportunity came up to work at bigger quarries she jumped at the chance.
“The bigger quarries on Texada Island came up and I haven’t looked back,” she says. Sarah’s favourite aspects of her role as mine manager are being able to work outdoors managing the complexities of the operation, while also knowing that the products her mine produces are needed in a wide variety of applications.
“I like that this is a very complex job, where you might not think that it would be. We deal with chemical composition of the limestone as well as gradation requirements. There are waste seams to move around and out of spec materials to remove. It becomes more dynamic than a typical sand and gravel operation,” she says. “You’re the first step in countless manufacturing processes and consumer products. It’s interesting and exciting and changes everyday as the mine progresses. I really like mine planning and development, it’s a massive chess game where you’re moving the pieces around to make a seamless operation. It’s satisfying when you look back at the work over a few months and see how many things have changed in the quarry and the long-term progress that has been made.”
Sarah has had several key projects that she’s been proud of over her years in the industry. One of them is her current role developing a mine plan for the site she’s managing.
“I’m changing the direction of how the mine has been operating, opening it up for long-term success. I did the same thing at Lafarge. Being involved in the mine planning at Lafarge was another big one I’m proud of,” she says.
As far as challenges the industry faces goes, Sarah believes industry perception and permitting are two big hurdles to overcome.
“There is a tendency within communities to project a negative light on the mining industries. I would like to shift that mindset where there is an understanding that mines and sand and gravel pits are vital operations to our way of life, helping to support infrastructure in our communities. We are a strong partner within our community and continue to work on building our relationship. Mines are held to a high standard for safety, environmental compliance, First Nations relationships and I don’t think the general public realizes that there are conditions required by regulating bodies to operate,” she says. “Also, it’s a heavy burden to get anything permitted and there are a lot of conditions that need to be adhered to, and things to be monitored. We need to build better relationships with the communities we operate in because it goes hand in hand with meeting our high standard.”
Sarah’s future goals for her career are to keep accepting new challenges, developing her experience, and to continuously improve.
“I never want to stop learning. If I stop learning, it’s a problem,” she says. “Every time you turn a stone over there’s a different puzzle, whether its learning about the different haul trucks, mechanical assemblies, crushing equipment and chemistries. I think that’s one of the reasons I like it so much. You’re always on your toes, and the learning that comes with that is pretty fantastic.”
She adds that one of biggest drivers in her career is focusing on trying to change the negative perception of the industry and to partner with the community and “change the face of mining, so it’s something that people want to have in their community.”
Being a woman in the aggregate industry can also come with additional hurdles to overcome.
“As a woman, you have to know 10 times more to be taken seriously,” she says. “If it’s a man [in the same role], his knowledge is assumed. My knowledge has to be proven.”
To attract more women into the industry, Sarah says equal opportunity is obviously a good start, but she adds that it’s not an industry all women are going to want to get into, so a big part of companies’ focus should also be on retention of the women already there. She says having good maternity leave programs and training programs would help.
Former work colleague and friend, Jennifer Chilton, says Sarah is well deserving of the important roles she plays at Imperial Limestone.
“Sarah is an amazing, accomplished person. She has worked her way up in the industry from mascot to mine manager. She is dedicated to her work and her employees. She is an icon for women in the industry and STEM in general, as a professional engineer. She is positive, intelligent and humble,” she says. “I think she is deserving of this spotlight. She is a rising star in her company, with a stellar reputation in the industry. Besides work, she is also an amazing mother to two boys, volunteers on the local fire department, and can finish a Rubik’s Cube in record time. It doesn’t take much digging to find all the reasons Sarah is a perfect candidate for this feature.”
When asked what advice she would give young people looking to get into the industry, she says to not shy away from being boots on the ground.
“Don’t be afraid to get your boots dirty. Ask questions and get out there, learn everything, become a big sponge,” she says. “You can’t be afraid to get out and ask questions. Learn from everybody. It’s an older industry, listen to those people, absorb that information.”
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