February 2012

From the big city to the pit

Scholarship winner hopes to find a solution to mining’s environmental challenges

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco

Erica Vertefeuille, the recipient of this year’s Scotiabank and Scotia Capital Markets Scholarship for mining exploration and geology, went from an all-girls school in Toronto – where the closest thing to mining she had seen was trading on the stock market – to working as a geology intern at IOC’s iron ore mine in Labrador City.

It was a transition she embraced. “I went from my school uniform in the big city to a hard hat and boots in a town of 7,000 with an open pit mine,” she laughs. “I loved it. I loved driving the big truck around the mine and seeing how well organized the operation was. It was amazing.”

Above all, the fourth-year Queen’s University geological engineering student is passionate about gaining as much knowledge and experience as possible so she can make a difference throughout her career. “I went into engineering because I was strong in math and science, but I haven’t turned my back on everything else,” says Vertefeuille.

She was drawn to geology because it is multi-disciplinary. “It is unique in that sense and it also has a very distinct human element to it,” Vertefeuille continues. “As for mining, the projects are so big and have such relevance in the world. As they say, everything that’s not grown is mined – that’s always stuck with me. It’s such a huge industry in Canada and it touches so many people, whether they know it or not. From the perspective of an environmentalist, you know that mining has innate problems, and to solve these challenges, you really have to do it through the mining industry. Hopefully, one day I may be able to help solve some of these challenges.”

If the long list of recognition she has received so far is any indication – which includes the Teck Cominco Limited Scholarship, the Canadian Geophysical Society Scholarship, and the Canadian Mineral Industry Education Foundation Scholarship – Vertefeuille will no doubt reach her goals. She already has a job lined up for when she graduates, one she has chosen because of the experience and insights she can gain from it on her journey to finding solutions for the mining industry.

“I’ll be working in investment banking with some focus on mining finance,” she says. “Looking at the environment and the challenges we face, I find what’s really lacking is a market solution for environmental problems; a solution that makes sense on the balance sheet isn’t there yet. So I looked to working in finance for those reasons, to pursue that solution.”
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