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TORONTO — Trying to get a read on the mining industry may be like peeking in a crystal ball at this point, but Zoë Yujnovich believes the long-term outlook is still a good one. “Right now it’s a little bit like reading tea leaves to try to figure out exactly what’s happening,” says the new chair of the Mining Association of Canada.
“Certainly in the longer term the industry is still poised to be very successful, and when we look at it in a Canadian context I think we’re going to continue to see the extractive industry being a major contributor to Canadian GDP,” she said.
Ms. Yujnovich’s comments come as she takes the helm of the 78-year-old association, building on an impressive résumé. The first woman to hold the post, she first made waves when put in charge of the Brazilian operations for British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Inc. at the age of 34.
Ms. Yujnovich, the chief executive officer of Iron Ore Co. of Canada, which is majority owned by Rio Tinto, will chair the association for two years. Pierre Gratton the current president and CEO of the mining association said he is excited to have her heading up the board and isn’t surprised that Ms. Yujnovich, who he describes as a natural leader, has risen so far so fast in an industry long dominated by men.
“She has a real presence,” said Mr. Gratton in an interview.
“She is one of those people that wouldn’t dominate the conversation but when she weighs in her points are always right on the mark and helps carry the conversation forward.”
Ms. Yujnovich was born in Hong Kong where her father worked as a pilot for the British Royal Air Force, but called Australia home as a child.
In school she excelled at science and math, but becoming an engineer – a discipline that was, and still is, notoriously male-dominated – was seen as somewhat unconventional for a woman at the time.
“Growing up in south East Asia and moving pretty regularly with a pilot in the air force probably has helped shape my open mindedness to things like entering into engineering,” she said in an interview.
Along with an engineering degree from the University of Western Australia, Ms. Yujnovich holds an MBA from the University of Utah.
She joined Rio Tinto in 1996, and her star quickly rose.
“I’d love to say that it was completely well thought through and well-crafted, but I suspect it’s been a combination of a number of things and some great people have helped mentor me and helped direct me at the right opportunity,” she said.
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