When you think of mining, many think of men covered in soot, working hard underground in dangerous conditions. But the times have changed, and with that came safety regulations, and the opportunity for women to work in the field.
In our series, The Lithgow Mercury reached out to women who work in mining to discuss how they first joined the male dominated work force and what their role is within the industry.
Diana Barnes first decided she wanted to get into the mining industry during university when she was lucky enough to visit one of the large open cut pits up in the Bowen Basin on a three week field trip around the state.
"While my Dad was a geologist and I had often accompanied him on field trips when I was younger, he had never worked directly in mining and I found myself standing on the edge of this massive open cut mine fascinated by the process and how as an Enviro [Environment and Community Co-ordinator] I could help make that process less destructive than it otherwise would be if the environmental factors were not managed well," she said.
For the past 12 years Diana has been an Environment and Community Co-ordinator, seven of which have been in mining.
"I was lucky to be selected for a graduate program with a prominent mining company, starting my career at Ulan near Mudgee, NSW," she said.
"I had previously done volunteer work with the Environmental Protection Agency in Queensland along with a fair amount of community volunteering through Rotaract and other projects, so the match was clear from the beginning."
The one thing Diana said she loved about her roles was that they always very varied from day to day.
"Some days you're out with consultants showing them sites for new water monitoring locations that need an ecological survey prior to disturbance, or planting endangered species as part of a research project, the next you can be answering enquiries from Government Regulators or collecting soil samples to ensure long term landscape stability will be achieved," she said.
"It does help to have a healthy enjoyment or interest in the legislation that covers mining as there are many factors that influence what we can and can't do on site and there are numerous agencies to report to throughout the year. You will learn most of this on the job if you join the industry."
Diana said she had always been an 'Enviro' but has found that the job varies significantly depending on the site that she is at.
"Open cut sites will always have a more outdoors focus due to the nature of the mining and risks such as dust, water management noise and rehabilitation," she said.
"Underground sites are often more indoors, focused on reporting information given to by other departments on site and consultants such as ecologists monitoring flora in particularly important ecological areas.
"All sites have different approvals and limits on activities, so you learn something new wherever you go. Engagement with the community and neighbours is important across all sites as maintaining that relationship is paramount."
The variety and difference between different sites as well as the knowledge that Diana has contributed to a long term more positive outcome, that may have been the case otherwise if a company didn't invest in environmental management, is one of the things Diana really enjoys about her work.
"I consider myself lucky to have worked across NSW, Vietnam, QLD and the Northern Territory, the variety of experiences this has brought to my life has been eye opening, enjoyable and memorable," she said.
Diana said she has never felt the stigma that comes with being a woman working in the mining industry.
"While I've never tried to be 'one of the boys', I also haven't shied away from doing my part to make things happen and learn about others jobs in the process," she said.
"Mutual appreciation of how everyone has an important role to play has helped and knowing the terminology used definitely helps build connections."
Diana said she would "definitely" encourage more women to join the mining industry.
"I've found mine sites to be one of the most dynamic workplaces, which is why, after a few years away from mining, I chose to come back," she said.
"Things are often changing on site, plans change due to different mining conditions or modified approvals and so the focus on team based problem solving is high."
The biggest challenge Diana has faced in the industry has been whether she should stay at a site she loves and knows inside and out or move to a new site and learn something new.
"As someone with a love of learning, moving to new places and the adventure that comes with that along with being exposed to new teams and environment and community challenges has taken precedence for the first decade of my career," she said.
"I have almost always felt welcomed on site by the people I work with day to day. Sometimes you come across people who are less environmentally inclined, yet I've learnt a lot from them, particularly about how to communicate the need to maintain compliance with our approvals and the benefits of doing so."
A career highlight for Diana was organising a community golf day where they raised almost $50,000 to go towards Beyond Blue for depression awareness, accommodation for families of palliative care patients at Orange and for playground improvements at the local school which was celebrating its 125 year anniversary.
"Another is knowing that the work you've done in rehabilitating a site and seeing flora and fauna return to an area that was previously mined has also been incredibly rewarding," she said.
"Visiting hidden Aboriginal art sites and learning the cultural stories that accompany those sites has been a real privilege of the role and flying around in helicopters over the Gardens of Stone in NSW and around the Top End near Kakadu has also been pretty amazing."
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