News & Insights – AER News
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.