Life on a remote site featuring Amanda Cotton: Day-to-day life on a mine site

Have you been thinking about taking on an expat position in a remote area, yet would like to know more about day-to-day life on a mine site. This week’s Q&A session with Amanda Cotton should help give an insight from an experienced expat.

Amanda worked as the HR and Expatriate Affairs Manager at Glencore’s Katanga Mining operation in DRC. Currently Amanda is working as an Independent Consultant for a gold mining firm in Africa and is on the Exco of Women in Mining (UK).

Amanda has already offered her advice for people who are considering an expat role and shared her experience of working at a mine site. However, it goes without saying that an expat assignment consists not only of working at a mine site, but also spending pretty much your whole time over there. This week, Amanda and I will be discussing non-working life at a remote mine site.

AER – Hello Amanda. Thank you for already third Q&A session with us. On behalf of AER International and our readers – welcome.

AC – Thank you for having me, third but not last!

AER – Amanda, I understand that working at a mine site takes a majority of expat’s time. However, I believe an expat is keen to use their free time in a best manner possible. What is the life on a mine site really outside of work. Is there anything to do apart from working?

AC – Many sites where possible, try to provide recreational facilities for their expatriate employee population, that could be anything from a communal bar area, bbq/braai area to a tennis court.  Living and working at a mine site is usually a very social environment, especially for the expatriate population.  For me, my day job meant I was heavily involved with people usually from the minute I stepped out of my accommodation in the morning to the moment I went back into my front door in the evening and everywhere in between.  So for me, if I had any free time, I was often very happy to retreat to my accommodation and have some quiet time, although, we were lucky enough at the camp I lived at to have enough space to get out for a run and we also had a gym, so I also was able to get out to exercise fairly regularly.

AER – It is definitely good to have some quiet time for yourself, especially after working long hours. Consequently, the accommodation itself must be good enough to be tempting to retreat to. What are usual living conditions at a mine site?

AC – Living accommodations can vary hugely from site to site.   There can be anything from trailer/caravan style accommodation through to purpose built homes on gated/security camps or even a ‘normal’ style home in a local village/town, these often will come with 24/7 security in areas of higher risk.

AER – You mentioned before that living and working at a mine site is a very sociable experience. I can’t even imagine how many funny stories you have up your sleeve. To finish this interview, would you like to share to our readers any unusual or funny incidents which happened while you were working at a mine site?

AC – Too many funny incidences to share them all!   One thing that is not work specific though that makes me chuckle about working in the DRC is the day a goat walked into my office!   We had lots of small goats roaming around the local area and the mine site.   One day I was the only one left in the office as I was working late and in trotted this goat through the front door, along the corridor and down to my office!!

AER – Hahaha. That must have been quite odd to be approached by a goat at work. Amanda, it was wonderful to have a chat with you once again. I hope to see you next week for our fourth Q&A.

AC – I will be here. Thank you for the invitation!

AER – Next week Amanda and I will be discussing her experience while working as an HR and Expatriate Affairs Manager at a mine site. Please follow AER International on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for more news and insights.

Life on a remote site featuring Amanda Cotton: Working at a remote mine site

 

Are you considering taking on an expat role in a remote area? Do you think it is something you could enjoy doing, yet would like a bit more information about it? Well, hopefully these Q & A sessions with Amanda Cotton will be useful.

Amanda worked as the HR and Expatriate Affairs Manager at Glencore’s Katanga Mining operation in DRC. Currently Amanda is working as an Independent Consultant and is on the Exco of Women in Mining (UK).

Last week we had a conversation with Amanda about the specific challenges and opportunities of an expat role in the mining industry. (you can also read more about what Amanda has to say about it here: https://www.aerinternational.com/news/life-on-a-remote-site-with-amanda-cotton-considering-an-expat-role/). In this particular discourse Amanda will speak about her experience of working at a remote mine site in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

AER – Hello Amanda, it is great to see you again! On behalf of the team of AER International and our readers I would like to welcome you and thank you again for your time with us.

AC – Thank you very much. It’s good to be back.

AER – Last week we spoke about the challenges and opportunities an individual faces when undertaking their first expat assignment. However, experiences will differ depending on where exactly an expatriate is based. Amanda, for a period of time you were working in DRC – former Katanga province (since 2015 Katanga province was split into four provinces), how did you cope with working in such a remote area?

AC – I was fortunate that I had previously travelled to the site and area on business trips, prior to moving to the site on a rotation basis, therefore, that gave me a good insight into the workings of the site and expatriate life.  I like to think I am an open-minded person, always open to change and new experiences and I think these qualities stood me in good stead for adapting to mine site life. 

AER – How was the territory surrounding the mine site? Were there any services or entertainment on the other side of the gates?

AC – The site I was based at was on the edge of a small town so we did have some services close and the camp we lived at was closer to the town than the mine site was.  We had a bakers, a takeaway pizza shop (which was amazing for a quick stop off to buy dinner instead of always eating canteen food!).  We also had a convenience store that was not always that convenient, especially on one occasion when they tried to charge me $20 for an out of date box of cereal!  However, that being said, for me, it was just nice to know there was a sign of l

ife going on outside of where I worked. 

AER – It’s nice that the mine site you were based had a civilization outside its gates. I believe some mine sites might not be as favourable.

AC – Yes, indeed. I visited far more remote sites and I am not sure for me, they would have been such a good fit, as I think life at those types of locations can be very tough for weeks on end.

AER – How was the travelling to and from the mine site?

AC – Travelling to the mine sites that I have been to, has rarely ever been quick, straight forward or particularly comfortable and has not always been reliable.  However, if you are open minded then it can be a grea

t experience.

AER – While working at Katanga Mining (Glencore) you gained a unique experience of working at both corporate level and at a mine site. Which one did you like the more?

AC – Working in a corporate office vs being mine site based, in my experience, was completely different but both very enjoyable.   I always felt it was important when working at the corporate level to try to see things from both perspectives.   Sometimes those at Corporate sites can be accused of being unrealistic by those at Mine Sites and vice versa, so it is important to look at how the two can integrate and work well together.

AER  – Looking at things from both corporate and mine site perspectives seems like a good strategy, especially for an HR professional as yourself. However, working at a remote mine site must be a strain on the health. What kind of specific health challenges can an expat expect to face?

AC – Keeping our mental well-being healthy is very important as well as our physical self.  For an ex

pat there can be challenges around maintaining a healthy diet, especially if there are any specific dietary requirements or needs.  Keeping fit and healthy at site if there are limited fitness facilities can be a challenge. 

AER – What about challenges to personal life?

AC – There can be all sorts of personal challenges when working at a mine site. Missing home and keeping links to home can be challenging, especially if time zones are an issue.  Dealing with any personal issues back at home can be hard from a site.

AER – You have probably met a lot of different people at a mine site. What sort of people are good/bad at a mine site?

AC – I don’t think there is a good or bad type of person at a Mine Site, I think it is important to h

eaders’ understanding about the challenges and opportunities of working at a remote mine site.

ave a good mix of characters along with skills.

AER – Thank you very much Amanda – it was a great conversation. I am sure you expanded our r

AC – Thank you for having me. Hopefully I did.

AER – In two weeks Amanda and I will discuss life at a mine site. Please follow AER International on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for more news and insights.

Life on a remote site featuring Amanda Cotton: Considering an expat role?

If you are considering taking on your first ex-pat mining role and would like to better understand the realities of such an exciting – but challenging opportunity – then these Q & A sessions with Amanda Cotton might be useful.

Amanda used to work as the HR and Expatriate Affairs Manager at Glencore’s Katanga Mining operation in DRC. At the moment Amanda is working as an Independent Consultant and is on the Exco of Women in Mining (UK).

In this particular discourse Amanda will speak about things which are important to understand before taking on such a role.

AER – First of all, on behalf of the team at AER International and our readers I would like to thank you for conducting this interview for us. We are delighted to be able to tap into your  experience.

AC – The pleasure is all mine! Thank you for having me.

AER – Amanda, you have been working previously as an International Expat in DRC. It is understandable that each mine site has specific challenges. However, what do you think are the key challenges for an individual undertaking their first expat assignment at a mine site?

AC – For someone that has not worked as an expat before, there are many challenges to consider before they actually even get to the detail of what their new job role will be like.  Things like:-

  • If the travel is considerable to their new location, how will they deal with that on a fairly regular basis?
  • What may they expect from the location of the site, is it very remote or close to a town?
  • If remote, what will there be to do outside of work, how will they feel being away from the modern conveniences of today for weeks on end?
  • What type of housing they will stay in, will it be shared accommodation and how will that suit them?
  • What will extended time away from family be like, they may have concerns about how any family at home may adjust.
  • Do they have any medical needs or dietary requirements that may not easily be able to be managed if working at a remote location?
  • Working and living close by with colleagues is not suited to everyone so that may be something to consider.
  • Working a long 6 day week is fairly common place in expatriate mine site positions, it can be tough for those not used to that.
  • The purpose of an expat is usually to teach/train and coach local staff, so at some point, they can hand their role across to them. Do they have the right skills to do this and have they thought through how best to deliver that skill.

AER – Would you do it again?

AC – Yes, I would.  However, now having school age children, I would need to consider the role and location far more carefully than I did before.

AER – Would you recommend an expat role to a friend?

AC – Yes absolutely. For me, it was a very enjoyable experience.  It gives a very different experience to working out of a corporate environment.

AER – How did you cope with missing your family?

I spent time working as an expat before I was married or had children, therefore, the family pull at the time was not something I needed to consider like I would today.  However, I did miss the creature comforts of home and all that goes with it, so I was happy to keep in touch with my home base family and friends by emails, text messages, skype/facetime and I always loved to receive news and see photos of ‘my outside world’ whilst I was working on rotation overseas.

AER – What sort of personal qualities should individual’s possess to be successful in an expat role?

AC – Resilient, tolerant of others when living in close quarters, a flexible attitude, open minded, open to change. Most importantly, a person should be open to an adventure.

AER – What advice would you give for a professional considering an expat role?

AC – Research the company you will be working for. Research the company’s culture, location of where you will be going and find out what their accommodation provisions are, including what do they do for food there and down time entertainment, talk to other current employees as well as previous employees.  Ensure they understand the role and purpose of an expatriate position that at some point, they will be required to step back and hand their role on to a capable national employee.

AER – Thank you very much Amanda – it was very informative and hopefully useful for a person considering an expat role!

AC – It has been my pleasure!

AER – Next week Amanda and I will be speaking about working at a remote mine site. Follow AER International on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for more news and insights.

AER International sponsors Mines & Money event in Hong Kong

AER International was once again proud to sponsor the Asian Mines & Money event in Hong Kong again this year. The event was attended by our Global Head of Sales, Simon Kar, and Jon Butler, the Manager of the Asia Pacific region based out of Australia. We were delighted to present the award for Mining Executive of the Year to Li Chaochun, CEO of China Molybdenum (in spite of Simon’s inability to pronounce it!)

Over the following day and a half it was a real pleasure the bump into many familiar faces as well as acquainting ourselves with some new ones. A year on from the 10th Annual event, the difference was tangible. There was a real sense of money in the room and deals getting done, several of which have been subsequently reported in the Press. Lithium seemed to be a particularly hot topic of conversation, as were Battery Minerals in general.

From our own side, although our mandates still remain confidential, we benefited from potential new listings on the ASX and elsewhere meaning that our Executive Search service was in high demand and we returned to Perth keen to talk to Managing Directors with a proven track record of exploration and fund raising. We also came back confident that our ex pat business unit was looking as strong as ever and excited about our future prospects upon opening our Toronto operation in 2019.

Looking forward to visiting Mines & Money Eurasia as part of the World Mining Congress in Kazakhstan in June.

AER International Quarterly Report: Mind the Gap – Gender Imbalance in Mining

The June 2017 AER International quarterly report is now available. This new report focuses exclusively on the area of gender balance on remote mining sites.

If you have any comments or suggestions then please feel free to get in touch with us.

AER International Quarterly Report: Geology and Technical Services

The March 2017 AER International Quarterly Mine Staffing Report has been published. The report is a comprehensive mine staffing overview based on empirical AER data and focuses squarely on Geology and Technical Services for this edition.

Please feel free to provide us with your feedback and comments to help us improve our reports going forward. If there is something you’d like to see in future reports, then please do let us know.

Site Support in Francophone Africa

Geology and Technical Services

The January report on Site Support in Francophone Africa is also available above

AER International Quarterly Report: Site Support in Francophone Africa

The January 2017 AER International Quarterly Mine Staffing Report has been published.

The report is a comprehensive mine staffing overview based on empirical AER data and focuses squarely on Finance and Support for this edition.

Please feel free to provide us with your feedback and comments to help us improve our reports going forward.

If there is something you’d like to see in future reports, then please do let us know.