Archive | Women in Mining

Vale executive receives honour – by Star Staff (Sudbury Star – March 8, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

A senior Vale executive in Sudbury has received the second annual Women in Mining Canada National Trailblazer Award. Samantha Espley, Vale’s general manager of mines and mill technical ser vices for its Ontario operations, was honoured during this week’s Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto.

“I am humbled and honoured to receive this prestigious award from (Women in Mining) Canada,” Espley said in a release. “Mining has allowed me to have a challenging and rewarding career, and I think it’s incumbent on female professionals to promote mining as an attractive career choice to the next generation of young Canadian women.

“I look forward to seeing more women occupy senior management roles in our industry through the work of WIM and other industry partners.”

Espley graduated 25 years ago with an engineering degree. Since then, she has held a number of positions, including for the former Falconbridge Ltd. (now Xstrata) at its Quebec and Sudbury operations. She joined the former Inco (now Vale) in 1990, where she has held roles of increasing responsibility. Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: Women in Mining Canada: 2013 Trailblazer Award Recipient – Samantha Espley

Toronto, Ontario – 28 February 2013

Women are significantly underrepresented in the minerals exploration and mining industry. Several studies have identified that women are discouraged by a lack of role models in senior management; prompting Women in Mining (WIM) Canada to initiate the Trailblazer Award to highlight successful women and encourage more women to explore a career in the minerals sector.

Samantha Espley has been selected as the recipient of the 2nd annual Trailblazer Award, which recognizes women who have taken personal career risks and helped to advance the careers of other women. The presentation will be made at the 6th annual Women in Mining International reception, on March 5, 2013 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre during the annual PDAC conference. Over 400 people are expected to be in attendance.

Samantha’s career progression is definitely a remarkable and inspiring climb for women in mining. Graduating with an engineering degree 25 years ago, she worked with Dome Limited in Northern Quebec, Denison-Potacan Potash Corporation in New Brunswick, and then moved to Falconbridge Ltd. working both in their Quebec and Sudbury operations.

Since 1990, she has worked for Inco Ltd. (now Vale) where she has held roles of increasing responsibility, currently leading a multi-disciplinary group of mining and mineral processing engineers, geologists, metallurgists, technologists and other technical staff supporting Vale’s mining and milling operations in Sudbury. Continue Reading →

Diamond drill CAO [Barb Courte] shares success story – by Benjamin Aubé (Timmins Daily Press – January 25, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – It is not easy for a woman to get to the top in a male-dominated industry such as mining. Barb Courte, a big name in the world of diamond drilling, spoke at the Dante Club on Thursday at a Women in Business luncheon hosted by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.

Courte, president and CAO of Northstar Drilling Ltd. and Cobra Diamond Drilling Ltd., said heads are quick to turn when she tells people about her heavy-duty line of work.

“As women, we’re not supposed to be working in the drilling industry,” said Courte, about past experiences, which have led her to work in places like Thunder Bay, Timmins, Sweden and most recently, the Dominican Republic. “I’ll tell you, after some of the things I’ve learned about mechanical stuff and down-the-hole stuff, it’s pretty bad. I have to check if I’m still female once in awhile.”

Courte’s tale in far from conventional. After getting married to Garry, a diamond driller, she never envisioned she’d be the one to eventually call the shots. In fact, at the time, she barely knew what drilling was.

“When I met my husband, I said, ‘What do you do?’ He said, ‘I’m a diamond driller,’ and I said, ‘Oh really!”, remembered Courte, getting one of many laughs from the crowd on the afternoon. Continue Reading →

Mining’s deep-rooted male chauvinism keeps glass ceiling firmly in place – report – by Dorothy Kosich ( – November 21, 2012)

The dearth of women executives running mining operations and mining companies is not due to a skills shortage, as the overwhelmingly male-dominated industry claims.

The full report, The Pathway Forward: Creating Gender Inclusive Leadership in Mining and Public Leadership, is available at:

RENO (MINEWEB) – Despite the whining of mining companies concerning a critical shortage of skilled employees during an era of increasing numbers of female university graduates in engineering and technology programs, a university study made public Tuesday found women only comprise 18% of those employed in the Canadian mining sector.

A report by Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership in Ottawa finds women remain under-represented in all of the mining industry’s employment opportunities, from entry level jobs to leadership posts.

At 18%, the number of women employed in the mining industry is very low compared to other key sectors such as finance (61.53%), service (71.86%), public administration (47.7%), manufacturing I21.7%), tourism and transportation (45.21%), and energy (24.6%). Continue Reading →

The Pathway Forward: Creating Gender Inclusive Leadership in Mining and Resources Report – by Umut Riza Ozkan and Clare Beckton (November 2012)

This report was done by the Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership. This organization promotes equitable representation of women in democratic institutions at all levels of government and in all positions of leadership within the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Executive Summary

Canada is a major player in the world mining industry, producing more than 60 different minerals and metals. The Canadian mining industry provides an important contribution to Canada’s economy, accounting for 4.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 23% of Canadian exports in 2011. Moving forward, however, the industry faces key challenges, such as serious labour
shortages due to an aging workforce, requiring strong recruitment of new talent. According to the Canadian Mining Industry Employment and Hiring Forecasts Report (2011), the mining industry will require 45,760 new people by 2016 and 75,280 new workers by 2021.

Despite the looming labour shortage, women remain underrepresented in all of the industry’s employment opportunities, from entrance positions to leadership posts. In fact, women’s employment in the mining industry – at around 15% for the past 14 years – is very low compared to other key economic sectors: mining (18.6%), service (71.86), public administration (47.70%), manufacturing (21.70%), energy (24.56%), finance (61.53%), tourism and transport (45.21%). Women’s employment did marginally increase from approximately 14% in 1988 to 18.6% in 2011. Continue Reading →

Why we need more women in mining jobs

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

Mining industry studies have helped Skills Canada Ontario and Women in Nuclear (WIN) produce a book designed to get more women involved into less traditional working roles.  “Women Working in the Skilled Trades and Technologies: Myths & Realities” debunks six false stereotypes about women in the trades.

Getting more females into skilled trades and technology careers is seen as being crucial to support Canada’s economy and infrastructure.  “The crisis associated with critical shortages of skilled workers makes it imperative that government, educators and industry work together as partners and utilize a cohesive approach in solving the problem of skilled worker shortages and do everything possible to attract women to the skilled trades and technologies,” said Gail Smyth, Executive Director of Skills Canada Ontario.

Women comprise 47.4% of the total Canadian workforce.  Mining knows females will need to have a larger role in the industry.  Currently, females make up 14.4% to the total mining workforce and there is a major role for women to play in the mineral sector as it works to solve its own skilled trades shortage. Continue Reading →

Building gender-balanced businesses in the minerals industry – by Catharine Shaw

The Canadian Mining Journal is Canada’s first mining publication. This column is from the magazine’s May, 2011 issue. Catharine Shaw is Business Services Manager, Mining Sector, Golder Associates and WIM Canada, Secretary.

Canadian women working in mining and exploration represent a human resource which is highly talented and yet their skills remain largely untapped. It could be said that there is some familiarity between career lifecy¬cles of women and the cyclical nature of a commodities business. For example, as the value of earnings fluctuate widely according to variations in the economy prompted by global supply and demand, often the career path of professional women in mining are impacted by the uncertainty to invest in female talent (equitable supply) and consistent long-term availability of this resource (demand).

The historical boom and bust nature of the mining industry poses additional challenges for short-tenure employees, such as women entering child-bearing years, who make choices during up- trending markets only to lose opportunities more heavily during the down turns. With that being said, every employer and employee is touched regardless of gender by booms and busts, however, the career path or lifecycles for women are unique when considering all choices that have to be made. Of course, not all professional women are alike when making career choices. Continue Reading →

[Canada] Northern diamonds in the rough – by Lisa Wright (Toronto Star – April 23, 2011)

Lisa Wright is a business reporter with the Toronto Star, which has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on Canada’s federal and provincial politics as well as shaping public opinion. This article was originally published April 23, 2011.

These women know the drill in a quest for a girl’s best friend

It was the little Canadian diamond mine that could – then fell off the rails.

Hopes were high for the Jericho mine when it started cranking out carats five years ago in Nunavut, 420 km northeast of Yellowknife. But operational setbacks, the strong loonie, skyrocketing oil prices and sinking rough diamond prices all took their toll. Former owner Tahera Diamond Corp. went into bankruptcy protection and was forced to mothball it less than two years into production.

But the daughter of a Canadian mining icon and a very determined geologist hope to breathe new life into this former gem after purchasing the shuttered property last year with a goal of reopening it as early as next year.

“Ultimately we bought Jericho with a view that it wasn’t irreparably broken, but there is a lot of work to do to get it to where we want it,” says Julie Lassonde, executive chairman of the mine’s new owner Shear Diamonds Ltd. Continue Reading →

Mining for victory [Inco, Nickel, World War Two] – by Stan Sudol (National Post – August 25, 2005)

Inco World War Two Poster

Inco World War Two Poster

Stan Sudol is a Toronto-based communications consultant who writes extensively on mining issues. [email protected]

The Royal Canadian Mint last spring introduced the Victory Anniversary Nickel to commemorate the sacrifices and achievements of our fighting forces in the Second World War. In Sudbury and Port Colborne, Ont., that victory coin has many additional memories, especially for Inco Ltd and its work force.

During the war years, International Nickel Company of Canada, as it was known back then, and its employees in Sudbury and Port Colborne, supplied 95% of all Allied demands for nickel — a vital raw material critical for our final victory.

In fact, for much of the past century the leading source of this essential metal was the legendary Sudbury Basin; the South Pacific island of New Caledonia came a distant second. Until the mid-seventies, Sudbury supplied up to 90% of world demand during some periods. Continue Reading →

[Viola MacMillian] The Prospector in the Pink Penthouse – by Christina MaCall

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on July 20, 1957.

Viola MacMillan believes “anybody can do anything” and has mink, a mansion, a Miami apartment and mines worth $10,000,000 to prove it

Mining papers credit her with building the Prospectors and Developers
Association from a loosely knit agglomeration of fieldmen and promoters
into a powerful organization representing one of the most important
segments of the mining industry.

The Prospector in the Pink Penthouse

Canada’s sprawling two-billion-dollar mining industry owes its boom to a motley army of men: sleek brokers in big city offices, lonely prospectors in frontier camps, geologists and bush pilots, road builders, professional engineers. But their spokesperson is a women who lives in a pink penthouse, wears a mink coat and buys size ten dresses from Sophie of Saks.

For fourteen years Viola Rita MacMillan has been president of the Prospectors and Developers Association, the largest organization of mining men on the continent, and in that time she has made scores of biting speeches that lash out at anything and everything impeding the development of mining. The sophisticated apartment and the soigné clothes are really only trappings. As she says herself, “I’m a miner. I love this business and I want to stay in it until I die.”

She doesn’t look much like a miner she so proudly calls herself. A small woman, she stands just over five feet tall and weighs little more than a hundred pounds. She has alert cobalt-blue eyes and short dark hair. The most striking thing about Voila MacMillan is the agility and speed of her movements. She darts about so quickly that bigger people sometimes feel almost cumbersome, when they are in her presence.

Mrs. MacMillan often says with firm conviction that Canada’s future greatness depends to a large extent on the growth of the mineral industry. For more than thirty years she has dedicated her unusual energy and persistence to that industry. In returen she has gained both money and prestige. Continue Reading →

Ramp-Up: A Study on the Status of Women in Canada’s Mining and Exploration Sector – Executive Summary

Women in Mining (WIM) Canada is a non-profit, industry-led group tasked with advancing the interests of women in the metals and minerals sectors. WIM Canada seeks to provide Employers, Employees, and Educators with tools and resources to break down barriers to employment, improve advancement opportunities, and ultimately increase the representation of Women in leadership positions.

Executive Summary

Canadian women in mining and exploration represent a highly-skilled talent pool in a range of occupations, from CEOs, engineers, and geologists, to heavy equipment operators, and related industry workers. Recognizing the value of this resource to the sector, and concerned about women’s under-representation and underemployment, Women in Mining (WIM) Canada initiated the Ramp-UP study. Its purpose is to gather data on the issue and establish a baseline for measuring improvements.

The study gathered baseline statistical data on the representation of women as well as the perspectives of four key stakeholders, Female Employees, Employers, Female Students, and Educators on issues such as: Continue Reading →

Women In Mining Meet the Mining Mogul Contest Winners Announced at PDAC Convention

March 4, 2009

The three winners were announced yesterday in the Meet the Mining Mogul contest, a first of its kind, put on by the Women in Mining (WiM) networks in Toronto and Vancouver. Each has won a one-hour private meeting with one of the three mining financiers who agreed to be the “prizes” in the contest, which is part of a fund-raising effort by the Women in Mining for The Townships Project.

A one-hour meeting with Frank Giustra of Fiore Financial will be the prize claimed by Guy Saucier. U.S. Gold’s Rob McEwen will meet with Karen Sutherland for an hour’s chat. And Eric Sprott of Sprott Asset Management will meet with Virginia Heffernan.

The Meet the Mining Mogul contest was part of an ambitious fund-raising effort by the Canadian WiM branches to support microloans for impoverished people in the township areas of South Africa. Their goal is to raise $250,000 this winter for the Toronto-based registered charity. Every donation in the campaign up to the time of yesterday’s draw was an entry in the contest. The amount of money raised for the charity at press time was $75,035, but that amount was expected to rise with the publicity that has been generated for the campaign during the Prospectors and Developers of Canada annual convention in Toronto this week, with an attendance of 18,000.

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Canadian Women In Mining Townships Project Offers Choice of Three Mining Moguls – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

What do Eric Sprott, Rob McEwen and Frank Guistra have in common? They have volunteered to be the prizes in a draw of people who donate to The Townships Project, a cause supported by the Women in Mining (WIM) networks in Vancouver and Toronto. Three winners whose names are drawn will have a one-on-one meeting with a mogul.

The Townships Project is a Canadian-based registered charity that supports microloans for South Africans (mainly women) to start up or expand their own sustainable business. A $50 loan can change a life by breaking the cycle of poverty. And because loan repayment is better than 95% the money keeps on working over and over again.

WIM aims to raise $250,000 for the Townships Project. The campaign got off to a great start when its Bedrock sponsor, Homeland Energy, donated $50,000. Corporate sponsors and individuals will be recognized for donations of $25,000 (gold), $10,000 (silver) and $2,500 (patron). Every donation brings the project closer to its goal, and small donations add up quickly. But hurry. The contest ends on March 1, and the winners will be announced at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto on March 3, 2009.

Canada’s WIM network is 600 strong, half in Toronto and half in Vancouver. This is the group that raised $239,000 for breast cancer research in 2007. Support WIM. Go to to donate today.

Women Into Mining Jobs at Inco: Challenging the Gender Division of Labour – Jennifer Keck and Mary Powell (Part 5 of 5)

Submitted to the Inord Working Paper Series, June 30, 2000

Jennifer Keck, Ph.D. Associate Professor – School of Social Work

Mary Powell, Ph.D. Associate Professor – Department of Political Science

Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario

Getting Active in the Local ‘we were part of a generation that stood up for our rights’

Like most of the men they worked with, the majority of the women were not radical. They were prepared to challenge conventional gender prescriptions to earn a man’s wage but few of them considered themselves feminists or were interested in broader political struggles. Still, few of the women remained untouched by the militancy of mining work culture and the impact of women’s movement in the 1970s. It was not long before a small number of women emerged who were willing to hold the company and the union- to the original promise that they would be treated the ‘same as men’ and receive ‘equal treatment and opportunities.’

Women became active with the union under much the same conditions as new male workers. They were recruited early, often after complaining about conditions on the shop floor, and put on health and safety committees at the various plants. The first two women union stewards took office in 1975; women were also elected as delegates to the Ontario Federation of Labour convention the following year. While the union gave early support for the women to become active, there was generally more support for the women working on traditional union issues than there was for their attempt to challenge differences based on gender. This was probably not surprising given the large number of male workers and the union’s traditional support for the family wage.

A women’s committee was established in 1977 to address this problem. One of the organizers challenged the company and the union in an article that appeared in the union’s newsletter, The Searcher: “Over the last three years women have had to prove themselves to the company and the union. As women workers we share and support the concerns and struggles of our brothers… Now we want to be active so we can have a voice in our local… that is not our privilege, it is our right.’(22)

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Women Into Mining Jobs at Inco: Challenging the Gender Division of Labour – Jennifer Keck and Mary Powell (Part 4 of 5)

Submitted to the Inord Working Paper Series, June 30, 2000

Jennifer Keck, Ph.D. Associate Professor – School of Social Work

Mary Powell, Ph.D. Associate Professor – Department of Political Science

Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario

While there was little publicity about the issue, sexual harassment was another reminder that the women were ‘different’ workers. Sexual harassment demonstrates the complex relationship between sexuality and the paid workplace and is one of the ways men used sexuality to maintain masculine dominance in the workplace. Harassment took many forms. Sometimes it involved foremen or shift bosses. One woman was assigned extra work shovelling asphalt after she refused the invitation to go to her foreman’s camp after work.

Another woman described a more threatening situation that involved a shift supervisor: “he would say to me, okay come with me and he would take another guy and bring us to this god forsaken place where no-one’s ever going to work there because it’s full of dust and muck and he’d say, oh, I forgot to get the tools and he’d send the guy down, then he’s left alone with me and he’d try rubbing his private area against my knee and I told him, if he appreciates talking in a deep tone he wouldn’t do it ever again. But then he tried calling me at home and asking me if I would meet him and I told him I’m not desperate for company and that I don’t sleep with a pig.”

While sexual harassment by supervisors was serious because management had more control over the women’s working conditions, women often found it difficult to deal with harassment by co-workers. This was a contentious issue with both men and women. Part of the problem was that masculine work culture was already highly sexualized before the women entered the workplace.

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