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Women in Mining Can Inspire Each Other

By March 1, 2022September 16th, 2022No Comments

Clockwise from top left: Elizangela Domingues do Nascimento, Shayne Smellie, Chloe Nowlan, Ebony Chrystie, Erin Evers and Nandinchimeg Munkhsaikhan

Major Drilling wants more women to see themselves as an important part of the drilling industry, today and in the future. Many women at the company are finding new career opportunities and honing their skills. Together, they’re inspiring each other to take part in the industry’s unique rewards and challenges.

Women can not only inspire ourselves but everyone we work alongside. It's a very empowering feeling, as a female, being able to teach new offsiders the skills I have learnt.

Ebony ChrystieDiller Assistant - Australia

I am proud to be paving a path for other women to be confident enough to try drilling as a career.

Erin EversDriller Assistant - Canada

Being a confident, hard worker has made me feel up to par with any gender in the industry.

Shayne SmellieDriller - Canada

With respect and doing a good job, while also having strong personal and professional ethics, I think women in the mining industry can inspire one another.

Elizangela NascimentoOccupational Safety Technician - Brazil

Being backed by supportive colleagues who believe in me helps to accomplish tasks that weren’t originally thought to be a female role.

Chloe NowlanDriller Assistant - Australia

I chose the drilling industry to challenge myself. My future is full of great opportunities.

Nandinchimeg MunkhsaikhanDriller Assistant - Mongolia

Changing Minds in Canada

That sentiment resonates deeply with driller assistant Erin Evers. She helps Major Drilling fulfill exploration drilling contracts at projects in western Canada, Ontario and Nunavut. Her specialized drilling skills are needed as the mining industry upturn is in full swing and labor is in demand.

With two drilling seasons under her belt, Evers is doing her part to fill the labor gap and proudly pave a path for other women to join the industry. She wants them to be confident to also try their hand at drilling.

Erin Evers (left) and driller Charles Sedore finish a 122-meter shift with a Duralite diamond drill in Manitoba, Canada, March 2021.

“There aren’t too many women that can say they do this line of work,” she explained. “I love the look of ‘Oh wow!’ when you tell people what you do and showing younger girls that we can play with the big boys too.”

She said it can be an uphill battle to overcome past expectations that women can’t do tasks associated with drilling like operating large machinery and manipulating drill rods. Still, she is happy to prove any naysayers wrong.

At just over five feet tall, she logged her first-ever, 100-meter shift in March 2021. She has since completed more triple-digit shifts. Believing in herself plays a big part in her success. “Women make an important contribution to the industry because we have a different way of thinking,” she said.

A similar, pioneering attitude led Shayne Smellie to love the industry. She began with Major Drilling in 2019 and is proud to be the first Canadian woman to complete Major Drilling’s driller assistant program, then work her way up to the driller position.

She is fascinated by the core she can pull from the ground and how drillers can do their work virtually anywhere on earth. For some projects, a helicopter delivers her. On others, the northern lights greet her. No matter where she goes, her “office” always has the best view.

“I see a long future for myself in this industry,” she said. “A lot of problem solving and quick calls need to be made by a driller, and that can get to my head and allow me to overthink. But, having supportive coworkers lets us get any job done that stands in our way.”

Shayne Smellie completed driller assistant training in 2019 and became a full-fledged driller in late 2021, a first for a woman with Major Drilling Canada.

Drilling Down Under

Major Drilling branches across the globe support women who are forging ahead and making history. This includes two Australians who are among the first four female driller assistants (offsiders) at McKay Drilling, acquired by Major Drilling in June 2021.

Chloe Nowlan is one of four driller assistants working for McKay Drilling.

Chloe Nowlan is based in Perth, Western Australia, and joined McKay Drilling in October 2021. Her workday begins with pre-starting both the drill rig and support truck, followed by assessing the work area and setting up exclusion zones and barriers. Then, it’s time to get drilling. Throughout the day, she will collect samples, survey, pack up and set up with members of her team.

She appreciates the driller she works with who always encourages her to do the same duties as the male offsiders. “A few times where I’ve gone to do a task and couldn’t the first time, he gives me the confidence to try again and challenge me.”

Like her female counterparts across the world, she knows teamwork is key to success. “Being backed by supportive colleagues who believe in me helps me to accomplish tasks that weren’t originally thought to be a female role,” she said.

As more women learn about working in drilling, she is optimistic about the future with a wish that more women will feel encouraged to apply. She hopes for less resistance to incorporate women in the mining industry.

Similarly, Ebony Chrystie feels the relationships she builds at work makes her job more enjoyable.  There’s another special relationship that helps her feel at ease as an offsider. “My dad taught me a thing or two about tools and mechanics during my teen years which has helped me out around the drill rig,” she said.

It was a strong start, yet she still had discomforts as a woman in mining. When she began her first shift at McKay Drilling in June 2021, she was the only female offsider and felt concern about stigma and judgement.

“I do believe I am a pretty resilient person and am aware of my capabilities, so I ignored all the judgment and proved myself,” she said. Chrystie is now trained to offside for the two different styles of diamond rigs McKay Drilling operates in Western Australia. She has her sights set on one day running a drill rig.

Ebony Chrystie keeps work flowing and maintains equipment at drill sites in western Australia.

Gains Through Leadership and Education

Globally, women working in drilling and mining is becoming more commonplace as their stories are shared and celebrated. Several Major Drilling women in mining have shared their stories to coincide with International Women’s Day, March 8. This includes company director Kim Keating, recognized by Atlantic Business Magazine as one of Atlantic Canada’s 25 Most Powerful Women in Business in 2022.

In Mongolia, Nandinchimeg Munkhsaikhan helps Major Drilling teams develop the Oyu Tolgoi Copper Project. She credits her start in the drilling industry to vocational training she received at Umnugobi Polytechnic College. She graduated as an operator of heavy machinery in 2017. She later heard through the government’s labor department that Major Drilling Mongolia was recruiting female drill assistants. With confidence in her skills and experience, she submitted her CV and was hired as a drill assistant in November 2020.

She is excited for the opportunities it has brought her. “The main reason I chose the drilling industry is the desire to challenge myself, no matter how difficult and challenging it can be.”

Nandinchimeg Munkhsaikhan removes a drill rod head assembly before emptying a core tube at the Oyu Tolgoi copper project in Mongolia.

Major Drilling Mongolia proactively employs educational initiatives to help women gain skills and advance in the industry. The driller training programs at the polytechnic college led the South Gobi Governor’s office to recognize Major Drilling Mongolia as a “Best Employer” in the region in 2020.

Across the globe, Elizangela Domingues do Nascimento came to Major Drilling Brazil in 2019 with several years of experience in the mining industry. This enlarged her perspective when landing her role training fellow employees on Major Drilling’s world-class safety programs as an Occupational Safety Technician.

Though each day brings tests to overcome, she works hard to ensure that each work scenario underground is met with consistent dedication to safety, every day. Results of her commitment came on September 24, 2021, when she and the team she works with directly celebrated one year without personal incidents at the Caraíba Vermelhos project.

While some experiences as a woman in the mining industry have challenged her, she maintains a deep resolve that women belong. “There is still a lot of prejudice on the part of men; it’s something we’re working on day to day. I know our work [as women] has value.”

Elizangela Domningues do Nascimento (in white) trains drillers to look for critical risks during a safety meeting at a copper exploration project in Brazil.

The Importance of Diversity

Major Drilling is working toward bringing more diversity to its global operations. A forward-thinking ESG Policy identifies women as an important part of achieving long-term success. They are part of talented, diverse and inclusive teams. This is a social responsibility belief system that underpins sustainability for long-term success.

As Canadian driller assistant Erin Evers said, the best way for women to get started in drilling is to, “…reach out to women already in the industry, ask questions, and hear their stories!” The time to listen is now as women at Major Drilling prove they are not only needed in the mining industry, they can also inspire each other.

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diversity at Major Drilling

Follow Major Drilling on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram to receive the latest company news and updates. Established in 1980, and publicly traded as Toronto Stock Exchange ticker symbol TSX: MDI, Major Drilling is the preferred specialized drilling contractor for all tiers in the mining industry. The company operates on five continents as the world leader in specialized drilling using mining industry ESG principles to guide sustainability. As the leading mining supplier and drilling contractor for specialized contracts, Major Drilling is a trusted mining partner through industry upturns and ongoing exploration projects. Learn more about how to make your next drilling project safe and successful with Major Drilling.