Leading in Mining contest winner

Nicholas Williams from Vancouver’s Quinsam coal mine won a place in the Leading in Mining program with a 700-word essay describing what Leading in Mining means to him, and how he would benefit from the course. The contest was sponsored by CIM's Western District. Watch his presentation at the CIM 2015 Convention in Montreal and read his essay below.


What Leading in Mining Means To Me

My name is Nick Williams and I am a Mining Engineer at Quinsam Coal Mine, a small underground coal mine near Campbell River, British Columbia. I graduated from the University of British Columbia’s Mining Engineering program in 2007, and since then have developed a true passion for underground coal mining. As a result of Quinsam being a small operation – employing less than 100 people – I have had to build leadership skills quickly in order to make critical decisions, gain the respect of our workforce, and ensure that our operation is functioning safely and efficiently. I am currently working toward a Class 1 Competency Certificate for Underground Coal Mining (Mine Manager’s Certification), which will require excellent leadership skills alongside the technical knowledge I am acquiring.

I have learned over the past few years that the ability to develop and effectively leverage leadership skills in the mining industry is an essential part to what we all do on a day-to-day basis. Being an effective leader in mining can mean the difference between profit and loss, health and illness, satisfaction and discontent, and even life and death. It is a critical component to every operation, affecting all of us - regardless of our position or department - and affecting the people in our lives whom we love and make it our goal to go home to every day.

At an underground coal mine, we often come into areas where conditions are either unknown or assumed until these areas have been mined out. We rely on the experience and knowledge of our miners as much as we rely on the theories behind what is in some cases (like pillar extraction) more of an art than an exact science. It is crucial that an effective level of leadership is maintained and that the lines of communication are kept open so that we can collectively make the right decision and keep everyone safe. Everyone involved in a depillar section where critical safety decisions have to be made must be able to express their concerns and ideas without fear of being dismissed or reprimanded.

I’ve learned that being a strong leader in mining means two things: leading by example and leading by learning. Leading by example is having the respect to keep workers out of situations that you wouldn’t want to find yourself in. It means adhering to industry recognized best practices and the rules set forth by the relevant governing bodies in your area and the company you are working for. Leading by learning I think is somewhat less common practice. It means listening to all parties who may be affected by a decision and addressing their ideas and concerns. It also means spending the time and making an effort to learn all that you can about every aspect of your field and operation to become a knowledge leader.

I think that I would be a strong candidate to attend the Canadian Institute of Mining’s Leading in Mining program because of my dedication to our workforce and my commitment to ensuring that everyone at the mine should go home safely at the end of every shift. There are certain limitations associated with working at a relatively small operation which can at times hinder my ability to gain insight and knowledge from Mining Engineers at a similar point in their career. I often find myself in a leadership role just due to the fact that there is no one else with the time or knowledge to help guide them.

I am excited about earning an Underground Coal Mine Manager’s ticket and would love to one day be given the opportunity to lead our men and women to a new level of safety and productivity. CIM’s Leadership Development Program will help me acquire the skills I need to excel as a future Mine Manager. However, unfortunately I will not be able to secure funding for such an experience without help from CIM. I would absolutely relish an opportunity to gain skills and ideas that I can bring back to Quinsam. An opportunity like this is not something that I would take for granted, and something that I know will be invaluable to my future as a leader in mining.

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