The Grand Canyon in Arizona was one of Lewis' favourite spots to hike.
The mining business has always primarily existed on the frontier,
outside the edges of big cities. Not only does mining
draw people to remote parts of the country, the mine operator,
engineer, geologist, and professional will often be sent
around the world. It provides a challenging and rewarding
experience, and the opportunity to see the world and experience
Michael Lewis, ex-pat Canadian and general manager for
Modular Mining Systems in Brazil, is currently living in Recife,
Brazil, having worked in Canada and the U.S. He has been
enjoying the experiences of his global career and wouldn’t
have chosen any other path, but he warns it can pose challenges.
“I don’t think foreign assignments are right for everyone,”
warned Lewis. “A lot of people have perfectly reasonable difficulties
leaving their families or integrating into a different culture.
It can be very rewarding but it’s not always an easy
road— it’s not the easiest way to live your life or to follow your
Lewis graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston,
Ontario, with a degree in mechanical engineering and a
Master’s in mining. His career has seen him uprooted and
transplanted a couple of times already.
“As someone who is actively involved in recruiting, I wish there
were more candidates to choose from with practical mining
and maintenance experience,” Lewis lamented. With the
heightened mining activity today and the HR challenges, it
has become increasingly difficult to find people willing to
work in remote job sites. “I think a diversity of experience is
really important, specifically, the experience you can get from
working in varied positions and departments both with mining
and mining support companies. This varied experience
can set you up to be a valuable asset to employers.”
After having finished his studies, Lewis worked for Inco Mines
Research in Sudbury, which sponsored his Master’s degree.
After that, he took time off to travel through eastern Africa.
Barrick Goldstrike recruited him and Lewis, age 25 at the
time, found himself in Elko, Nevada. In 1999, Lewis joined
Modular Mining Systems in Tucson, Arizona, and held a variety
of positions within the Mine Services group, most
recently as manager of mine services.
“I have split my career between working in mining engineering
and maintenance activities,” explained Lewis. “I feel that I
have had a very interesting career with diverse work assignments
and being able to divide my time between two of the
most important aspects of mining.”
His well-rounded and varied experience helped prepare
him for his current position at MMSI in Brazil, a
position he was promoted to in January this year.
“Modular Mining Systems is a wholly owned subsidiary
of Komatsu, with a focus on real-time solutions
to maximize the value of mine assets. Our revolutionary
products such as IntelliMine®, Dispatch®,
MineCare®, and ProVision® are used to maximize the
value realized from mobile equipment assets at over
150 mines around the world.”
As the general manager, he is involved with every
aspect of running the Brazilian office, from day-to-day
managing to sales, delivering products or services,
and providing support to MMSI’s Brazilian customers.
Recife doesn’t have a large ex-pat community; as a result
Lewis spends most days completely immersed in the
Brazilian culture, mainly interacting
with the 27 local employees, and
communicating with mining customers.
“About three months before I
moved to Brazil I started taking
Portuguese language classes, so I
had a good base to build from. The
challenges of learning a new language
while starting a new job and
life in a new country are not to be
underestimated. However, after about
four months here in Brazil, I am starting to feel a lot more
comfortable, but still it is a bit of a challenge to keep up in
group conversations,” he admitted. “Speaking, reading,
and writing in Portuguese at work all day can sometimes be
a bit draining – sometimes I wish I could come home at
night and take a break from it all and watch some good old