CIM recently asked Carol Plummer what drew her to a career in mining, and how her gender has had an impact on her career development. We felt Carol’s response had to be shared - she represents the passion for this industry and the strength of character common throughout industry’s leaders.
I have always known that I would work in the mining industry. My family has been in mining for generations and mining was part of discussions around the dinner table for as long as I can remember.
The first time I visited underground with my father I was 10 years old. I loved the noise, the equipment, and even the smell of diesel. The visit just reinforced my conviction that I would work underground. My parents have the attitude that if you want to do something badly enough you will work hard enough to make it happen. Thus, I never heard “you can’t do that – you’re a girl” growing up. I suppose that has largely contributed to my “can do” attitude and my career success to date.
Throughout my life, I have witnessed examples of triumph over barriers and the power of determination. To me, the will to take on challenges and strive towards a goal was simply part of life, and the ability to think outside the box – to embrace change – an asset. For example, when we were living in northern Manitoba in the 1970s, the company my father worked for was opening a new mine in a nearby town. They wanted to mine an open pit while developing the shaft. They didn’t have enough workers available and solved the problem by recruiting the miner’s wives. These ladies worked alongside their men and brought the mine into production. Most of them chose not to transfer underground, but for a short period, the percentage of female employees was much higher than the national average.
Throughout my career, I have worked with great people that allowed me to develop as an engineer and a leader. When I went underground as a supervisor at Brunswick Mines in 1989, the person who was training me as his replacement was quite a joker. The crew decided to play a joke on him shortly into the training. They refused to listen to him, claiming he was no longer their boss – I was. He huffed and argued but they pretended he didn’t exist in order to pull his leg. In addition, they would follow any instruction I gave them immediately and to the letter. This went on for a couple of days and by the time they tired of the joke, they had become accustomed to having me as a boss and everything went smoothly from there.
Carol Plummer is the mine manager of Lapa Division, Agnico-Eagle Ltd., and chair of the Women in Mining Forum at the CIM Conference and Exhibition – the first such session encouraging women to exchanges ideas and share strategies with the minerals industry HR personnel and leaders to help foster a growing number of female workers in mining.