Mining is one of the industries in the world that are heavily dominated by men due to multiple factors.
Approximately 15 per cent of the Canadian workforce in mining consists of women, which has been a tremendous growth from the earlier years, however, only a margin of those women is from the technical side.
To fill that gap, Canada’s leading non-profit organization, Women in Mining, developed programs and scholarships to encourage women to join the mining workforce across Canada.
Journey from the South
In 2021, four scholarships were awarded to the local women in mining Northwestern Ontario. Rebecca Price, a master’s student in Lakehead University, originally from Southern Ontario is the first recipient of the women in mining scholarship. Price completed her structural geology degree as an undergraduate student from Carleton University in Ottawa. Master’s degree brought her to Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, where she also works as a teaching assistant.
Price spent most of her summers outdoors, and spending time at her cottage looking at the rock formations north of Parry Sound, led her to majoring in Geology and making her way to Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario, which is a goldmine for geology enthusiasts.
“Back in high school, we had a session from the Canadian Ecology Centre about geology, which sparked my interest in geology. After that, I spent a year living in the north of Parry Sound, where I was able to explore the outdoors, and my fascination for geology only grew. Thinking back, my grandfather left behind of large collection of minerals, samples and specimens when I was eight years old, which influenced my career path in the later years,” says Price.
Northwestern Ontario, considering its vast outdoors is an exciting place for geologists and miners. “The biggest challenge in Southern Ontario is the distance to geology especially in GTA areas, as it is all one big urban space. Moving to Northwestern Ontario, where you are surrounded by geology everywhere has helped further my career and receiving that mining scholarship was just the icing on the top. It means a lot to receive that scholarship from NWO and mining companies. It is encouraging to see support for women in mining,” adds Price.
With the belief that there is a lot of untapped potential in this industry, and the newer advancements and practices, Price steps into this field with utmost confidence, and hopes to work in different avenues in the future. She believes that mining specifically is beneficial to northern communities and affects their economy in highly positive ways. With more focus and encouragement given to women to enter this industry, Price believes that this would be the starting point of great strides in the history of women in mining.
Price hopes that this award is the first step to her long-term career in mining and geology and is hoping to go to the Geological Association Conference held in Halifax in the near future.
From the land across to the land under
Despite being told that geology and mining is a man’s job, this brave young woman, Sevgi Goksen, packed her bags and travelled to this enormous land of Canada to pursue her higher studies in geology and learn about the fascinating history of formation of rocks from the land that boasts of rich subjects. With the support of the Republic of Turkey, she proved all the naysayers and snagged her second scholarship from the Northwestern Ontario community for “women in mining.”
“Thunder Bay boasts one of the richest geological sites in Canada, and I travelled to Thunder Bay to learn about graphite. My professor has helped me push boundaries and tap into the undiscovered parts of geology and widen my horizons, which I’m extremely grateful for,” Goksen says.
It is a big leap to travel across the world, lest in the time of a pandemic, and Goksen is extremely happy about the support received for women in the mining industry from Ontario and the local community here.
Goksen believes that amongst all the factors, the biggest factor that persuade people to think that mining is a male dominated job is the conditions in the field. Despite this, she believes that there has been a growth in the number of women entering the mining workforce in the recent years.
Recently, more focus has been put into more women being encouraged to pursue mining, creating a gender balance that the society needs. To all the women geology aspirants, Goksen advises you to take the plunge and go for it if it is what you are passionate about.
“The industry is always evolving, and there is no end to discoveries, which is why I’m so fascinated about geology. And there are growing number of opportunities in this field, and I’m hoping to go back to my country as a geologist with pride. One day, I’m hoping to work towards Graphite Deposit Mineral Research & Exploration,” Goksen talks about her future in the industry.
Towards a more women inclusive industry in the North
Nina Buchanan is the third scholarship awardee of the Women in Mining scholarship. Her journey begins in the North, where she was born and raised. A proud local Thunder Bay woman, Buchanan currently is enrolled in her fourth year of geology in Lakehead University. Unlike the other recipients, Buchanan dove into geology after her first-year geology course sparked interest and curiosity in her.
Like many of us, the young student enrolled herself into a science major, undecided about the career path awaiting her. The fascination associated with learning about planets, the unknowns, what the mechanism is, led Buchanan to choose geology, and Northwestern Ontario is a gem for the choice. “There is a lot of mining and outdoors in and around Thunder Bay, in Northwestern Ontario, so I thought it would be interesting and exotic to pursue this field,” says Buchanan.
The support for women in a male-dominated industry is overwhelming from the Northwestern community, especially from other women. Shared experiences and immense support from other women in the industry persuades the next generation women to explore the options in geology and mining.
“Mapping and exploration options in Red Lake and Marathon helped me gain the inspiration to write a letter explaining why I wanted to explore a career in mining, which led to my scholarship. I’m very grateful that this award could support my education and based on my all-positive experiences, I hope more women explore this career option, and come out of the shell of fear. It would be nice to see more women in mining, especially in positions of power and leaders,” adds Buchanan.