Sept/Oct 2012

From tunnels to the moon

Hildebrant Memorial Scholarship recipient digs deep and aims high

By Dan Plouffe

Jessica Steeves, one of this year’s recipients of the Maintenance and Engineering Society’s Ken Hildebrant Memorial Scholarship, is headed into her fourth year of geological engineering at Queen’s University. The Oakville, Ontario native spent this summer work­ing at Vale’s nickel operations in Thompson, Manitoba, where a major highlight was planning and executing several blasts. Steeves is involved with numerous student groups at her school, and has her Star Trek uniform ordered and ready to go for NASA’s 2013 Lunabotics competition where she will serve as Queen’s Space Engineering Team captain. CIM Magazine caught up with Steeves to get her perspective on her industry experience so far and on where she thinks we need to boldly go in the future.

CIM: What did you want to be when you were five years old?

Steeves: When I was five, I think it was probably Britney Spears. I remember dressing up as Britney for Halloween several times.

CIM: So, how and when did you move on to pursuing a career in mining?

Steeves: Well, I was also really inter­ested in archaeology as a child. My pa­rents took me to a lot of ancient history museums and I really liked that. I was always interested in digging in the ground, which is also something you end up doing as a geologist. Since my dad was an engineer, he taught me about engineering and the sciences. When I went to Queen’s I decided to study engineering and took a variety of courses.

I took geology and mining, and even electrical. That year, I realized that geology is what I love. I really enjoyed going to lectures and learning about the mining industry.

CIM: In 100 years from now, how important will space mining be to our world?

Steeves: I think it will be very im­portant. We’re all still going to want the newest and coolest cell phones and gadgets in the years to come, and we’re going to need the metals to make those. I think space mining is only going to become more important because the things we’re mining on earth aren’t renewable.

CIM: What do you think is the biggest misconception the public has about mining?

Steeves: That we just dump everything and leave it. A lot of these mis­con­ceptions arise because negative events are publicized and the positive ones are not.

I believe the public thinks that we don’t think before we do things, but they’d be surprised how much education, research and thought goes into solving problems and improving our mining processes each year to become more sustainable, more environmentally friendly, more productive and safer. Sustainability and safety are big priorities. I don’t think people see all the work that goes on behind the scenes.

CIM: If you had a blank cheque, what mining sector or project would you invest in, and why?

Steeves: I would probably invest in mining cleanup because I feel like that would be an investment, not only in the environment, but also in changing the public’s view of the mining sector. Investing in remediation could also help develop technologies that make make it even easier and perhaps even less costly.

CIM: How are you enjoying living in Thompson while working at Vale?

Steeves: Honestly, I like it a lot, which is weird for me because I’m so used to living in suburbia. It’s been really fun up here. I’ve been fishing and to the shooting range – things I never would have expected to do. I even own camouflage clothing now. When I told my dad I own camouflage, he was like, ‘No you don’t! What has happened?’ You just have to go into these things with an open mind. There’s a won­derful group of students up here, and we have so much fun together. I’ve had a blast.

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