Life on a remote site featuring Amanda Cotton: Women in mining

For a long time the mining industry was considered as a ‘boys only club’. Only in recent decades this presumption started to change. Mining companies discovered that diverse teams on both corporate and on-site locations are much more efficient, women discovered that the mining industry can provide them with additional opportunities. However, women are still a small minority among the workforce within the mining industry and whilst more women are entering the industry, this growth is slow.

This week’s discussion is focused on challenges and opportunities that women face in mining. Amanda Cotton – an experienced mining expat, agreed to share her unique first- hand experience of working at a mine site. Amanda worked as the HR and Expatriate Affairs Manager at Glencore’s Katanga Mining operation in DRC and is currently consulting to Banro Corporation.

AER – Thank you for agreeing to have a fifth and last interview with AER International. We are delighted to have an opportunity to discuss such important subject as women in mining with you.

AC – It is great to speak about such relevant issue, one that is very close to my heart.

AER – Amanda, what do you think are the challenges women face whilst working within the mining industry?

AC – Whilst women are being recognised as part of the mining world, there is a still a long way to go to make it a truly gender balanced industry. More companies need to get on board with improving their gender balance and also look at the bigger picture of what does their organisation look like currently and what do they need to do to attract and retain more females. Once this happens, there will certainly be less challenges to women wanting to get started in the mining industry.

AER – What is being done to improve women representation in mining industry?

AC – There are many groups around the world, such as Women in Mining, that are doing great work to inspire women to join the industry and to promote gender diversity within mining. More women are signing up to mining related courses such as Mining Engineering and Geology.  Women are also making it on to Boards for the right reasons, for their talent and experience.  It is also great to see more women speakers at global events.

AER – What can also be done to attract more women to the industry?

AC – We are now seeing more women signing up to mining related courses as mentioned earlier and this is great news. Making girls in High School aware that the industry is open to them too.   Companies need to work to make themselves more attractive to both sexes. There needs to be more improvements to facilities on sites to prepare for a more gender diverse workforce. These changes will help attract more candidates to these forward-thinking companies.

AER – What are the challenges women board members face in mining industry?

AC – Women board member numbers are still in the minority, so getting their voices heard is important.  With more women joining the industry, we hope to see a trend in the future that investment is made in these females and they are nurtured and developed all the way through from the start of their careers right through to a seat on the Board.

AER – What sort of opportunities are there for women in mining?

AC – I believe in today’s world there are no barriers or ceilings for women in the mining industry. Therefore, in the right company, with the right support, the opportunities are out there for women all the way up to Board level. Women with the right determination and drive can make it happen.

AER – It is incredibly hard to coordinate family and work in any industry, this must surely be accentuated on mine sites. How have you dealt with these sort of challenges?

AC – I think family and work is a day to day challenge to both men and women.  Around the world there are so many different types of mine sites, some can accommodate families close by, then there are those that mean family must remain at home, whilst the parent goes on rotation away from home.   We each make these situations work or not, depending on our own situations.   For me, having worked in Africa in a remote location of higher risk, I did not feel it was the right place for me to return to when my first son arrived, 8 weeks prematurely.  Now my boys are of school age, our needs as a family are dictated by their need for school amongst other things.  Therefore, I put their needs first when considering a new job opportunity.

AER – What can be improved in mining industry to improve family/work balance?

AC – Having been in a site based role that I felt was not right for me to return to after having a family, having options available at a corporate level when returning to work after a period of maternity/paternity would be good.  However, I appreciate, not all mining companies would be able to offer that.   In a world that is rapidly changing due to technological advancements, I think companies are starting to review their company policies in general and encompassed within that, is also looking at what can be done to improve the work/life balance, whether you are male or female and have children or not.    I also think that employers are more aware of mental health issues than they used to be, so, this is also an influencing factor when considering how the work/life balance can be improved upon.

AER – AER report ‘Mind the gap’ shows that women usually spend 50% more time working for the same role in the mining industry than men. What are your thoughts about it?

AC – I would say in the past, women may have had longer tenure in a role due to the perception that it is still a male dominated industry and there are not the opportunities for women to move around from role to role, or company to company.

AER – Amanda, it was great speaking with you once again. Thank you very much!

AC – Thank you again for inviting me.

AER – On behalf of the team of AER International I would like to say thank you for all our readers. It is great to see that articles about mining expat experience are so popular. Speaking about mining, if you are interested about gender diversity within mining industry, you can read more about it at our report ‘Mind the Gap’.  Please find the link below:

English: https://www.aerinternational.com/news/new-aer-international-quarterly-report/

French: https://www.aerinternational.com/news/new-aer-international-quarterly-report/?lang=fr

Spanish: https://www.aerinternational.com/news/new-aer-international-quarterly-report/?lang=es

Life on a remote site featuring Amanda Cotton: Working as HR Manager

Have you ever considered what HR Manager’s role consist of and how different it is to work at a mine site, comparing with the corporate position? On this week’s Q&A Amanda Cotton will help you to get some insight about her experience of working as an HR Manager in a remote mine site.

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

Amanda and I already had three conversations about life at a remote mine site. She already gave her advice for people considering an expat role. Also, she was speaking about both living and working at a mine site. This week, we will be discussing the role of HR and Expatriate Manager.

AER – Hi Amanda, it’s good to meet you again. I would like to welcome you on behalf of both AER International and our readers!

AC – Hello again..

AER – Amanda, you have been working and living at a mine site previously. What would you say is a typical day when working at a mine site and what is the key element people should consider when working at a mine site?

AC – All roles and functions are different when working at a mine site, it takes many moving parts to keep a site ticking along on a day to day basis.  One of the key areas that apply to everyone though, no matter what role you are performing, is safety.  Safety should be everyone’s number 1 concern and priority..

AER – I do agree with that.

Safety should be a number 1 priority no matter the job. However, it is clearly vital looking specifically at a mine site, where one mistake or act of carelessness can cause injuries or even death.

Speaking about the role of HR Manager, what would a typical day look like for an HR Manager at a mine site, if there ever was a typical day?

AC – I am not sure there was ever a typical day as working in this industry can mean no two days are ever the same!  My workload was very varied,  it was a case of rolling up sleeves and getting the work done. In the same day, I could be working on recruitment plans, interviewing candidates, preparing employment contracts, dealing with onboarding issues, running payroll, conducting disciplinaries, responding to emails, managing local HR issues or expatriate employee issues, meeting with Union representatives, having strategy meetings with the CEO, coaching managers on managing their employees and performance issues.  The days were long and the workload huge but I loved every minute of it.

AER – How does an HR Manager’s role differ when at a mine site, compared to a corporate position?

AC – At site, the position would be dealing with day to day HR related issues specific to that site and its employees, whereas at a corporate level, this would be more of a strategic position where policy and direction would be shaped across the wider organisation.

AER – You have mentioned that one of many things you were doing while working as an HR Manager was conducting interviews for potential employees. What advice would you give for a person, who is preparing for their interview for a role at a mine site?

AC – Research  and preparation are key, so research the company you will be working for. Find out about the company’s culture, historic and current performance, get an understanding of the direction of the organisation and the management team.   Learn about the location of where you will be going and if you can, find out what their accommodation provisions are.  You may want to find out from anyone you know that maybe currently working there, what do they do for food, down time entertainment, find out if the mine is remotely located.  Talk to other current employees if you know any as well as previous employees.  The candidate should be clear on their own CV content and be prepared to talk about their experience and successes to date.  They should confidently be able to talk about what they will bring to and do for the organisation that sets themselves apart from the other candidates.  Preparation is key!

AER – What are the challenges of recruiting and maintaining expat staff in a remote mine site?

AC –Attracting the right candidates and employee retention is always a key challenge.  Providing a competitive compensation package, positive and happy company culture, strong and successful succession plan and good facilities all help to retain and attract employees.  At times, we sometimes see the family pull or family issues at home can cause an expat assignment to fail.   This is often outside companies’ control but giving support to an employee through issues such as these would help.

AER – How challenging was constantly working long hours?

AC – My role was contractually a 6 day a week position when I was based at the mine site, however, the nature of my workload meant that often there was a need to be working a 7 day week. Where I was located, there was not an awful lot to do outside of work anyway, so working hard ,  meant that the weeks flew by until the end of my rotation!  I really enjoy working in the mining industry and that helps with working long hours.   If you enjoy what you are doing, it never seems so bad.

AER – Thank you very much Amanda. It was great to learn from your experience.

AC – I have enjoyed sharing my experience.

AER – Next week Amanda and I will be discussing challenges and opportunities women face in the mining industry. Follow AER International on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for more news and insights.

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 life 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 great 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 expat 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 have 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 readers’ understanding about the challenges and opportunities of working at a remote mine site.

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.