Our global membership – continued

  • By AusIMM
photo of mountainous alumbrera landscape

More stories from AusIMM members living and working overseas

Read part one here.

Richard Dewhirst FAusIMM(CP)

Consultant, Limehurst

Current location: Perth

Previous locations: Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia

Having started my career in Africa and worked in China, I was no stranger to different cultures, but from 2009-2014 I had the good fortune to work in South America. I went there to help establish SKM’s business with Vale in Brazil, and was subsequently based out of Santiago, Chile. I also helped win the company work for Cerrejón Coal in Colombia, and finally had some 18 glorious months in Lima seconded to Rio Tinto on the La Granja copper project.

The countries of South America all have a rich mining heritage of almost every mineral known to man; sadly much was exploited under colonial rule.

Whatever you do, don’t think of South America as a homogeneous continent. As well as language differences (Spanish and Portuguese), there is much history to consider. Learn the basics of the language – this opens up whole new horizons.

Although there may be poverty and lack of formal schooling for many, in urban centres the middle class are well-educated (especially engineers) and the top echelons are extremely wealthy. Family and friends are very important, and quality of life is excellent – once you get over traffic jams!

photo of street musicians in Diamantina, Brazil
Street musicians in Diamantina, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Richard Dewhirst.

Dr Stewart Gillies MAusIMM

Union Pacific Rocky Mountain Energy Professorship in Mining Engineering, and Director of Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center at the Missouri University of Science and Technology

headshot of S Gillies

Current location: Rolla, Missouri

Previous locations: Australia, South Africa, Indonesia

My wife Jennifer and I moved to Missouri six years ago where I took up my current positions at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. I previously lived and worked in Rolla thirty years ago at a more junior academic rank.

The Mining Engineering Department in Missouri has for many years been the largest in the United States. Undergraduate enrolments include almost 200 US students and 50 students from Botswana. Postgraduate enrolments are about 45 Ph.D, 25 Research Masters and about 80 online Masters students.

Rolla is a small university town geographically in the middle of the US. There are many small university towns in the US, and while Australian universities are very large and comprehensive in their offerings, most of the 4500 universities in the US are smaller and academically focused.

Rolla is focused strongly towards Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The town also played a major role in the US Civil War. Over the years we have travelled to almost all states and enjoyed the dramatic changes in scenery throughout the country.

Michael Le Page MAusIMM

Chief Commercial Officer, Rio Tinto Minerals

Current location: Denver, Colorado

Previous locations: Australia, Singapore, Indonesia

I moved to Colorado in 2012 after 18 months spent in Australia. The reason for the move was to take up a new role with Rio Tinto Minerals. I previously worked as the Vice-President in Asia for Rio Tinto between 2006 and 2009 before moving to another role in the organisation, and then moved back into Rio Tinto Minerals in a more senior role in the US.

The Rio Tinto Minerals business is focused on the industrial minerals segment producing numerous refined chemical products from the open cut mine in Boron, California and the chemical processing facilities in the US and France.

Living in the US is a real privilege for me as the culture of the business, and the state I live in, are both outstanding. The climate in Denver reflects that it is high up in the Rocky Mountains, and it has four distinct seasons including a good winter ski season. The city is also central in the US with excellent domestic and international flight connections.

photo of Rio Tinto plant in Boron, California
Rio Tinto plant in Boron, California. Photo Courtesy of Michael LePage.

Jean-Michel Rendu

Retired consultant

headshot of JM Rendu

Current location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Previous locations: Denver, Colorado; Perth, Australia; Danbury, Connecticut; Madison, Wisconsin; Johannesburg, South Africa

I first moved from France to the United States to continue my studies as a mining engineer. After that my travels to different parts of the world were the result of where the work took me, from technical and managerial positions, to international mining companies, or as an independent consultant.

I am now permanently based in the US and live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. While I am now retired, I moved to Santa Fe as a consultant as it is a small and quiet city with exceptional art and cultural activities, ideal to take one’s mind away from the intensity of consulting.

What I enjoyed most when working around the world was the diversity. There is the diversity of the natural environment, geologic sites and mine operations, of course, but more significantly there is the diversity of cultures, religions, and working habits. One constant everywhere is the desire of professionals to learn, the willingness to do the best job possible, and the appreciation they give to those who are willing to spend time to help them improve.

Having played an active role in numerous mines over forty years, I have seen many go from early exploration to closure, and had the privilege to see young geologists, mining engineers and metallurgists grow from having just graduated to being promoted to senior managerial positions. This positive social impact of our industry contributes greatly to make it all worthwhile.

Clancy J. Wendt MAusIMM(CP)

V. P. Max Resource Inc and Consulting Geologist

Current location: Reno, Nevada

Previous locations: Canada, Baja California, Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Australia

I have been based in Reno, Nevada since 1987, and have worked in the United States and other countries on different assignments. I started my career in San Francisco and from there worked for 10 companies and lived in Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and finally in Nevada.

No company I worked for existed for more than four years so I did not choose wisely. Along the way I found and helped develop a million ounce gold mine in Nevada, and started my own consulting firm in 1992 where I continue to work as a consultant on various projects.

Working in Spanish speaking countries has been interesting and challenging at times. Listening to the advice of locals about when told to avoid certain areas on certain days has kept me safe from drug cartels and kidnapping attempts. I have enjoyed meeting the locals and learning about different customs while seeing some amazing sights.

Working on projects in Canada and Australia is much like working in the US except for the sights. Working in Nevada has been very exciting and dealing with the permitting process has proven to be challenging at times.

Clancy Wendt standing in front of the great Mano in the Antofagasta Desert in Chile.

Mihir Malla MAusIMM

Manager (Exploration), Sesa Sterlite Limited, Lanjigarh, India

I moved to India in 2014 on account of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Prior to this I worked with iron ore as part of the Mayoko-Moussondi project in Congo-Brazzaville from 2011-2013.

The experiences of working in the remote locations of both Congo-Brazzaville and India are similar. The people are innocent, provide great hospitality, and are so reliable. I’ve never had a lock for my camp house or a security guard for the office, but you need to lock your fridge and diesel fuel tank. Wine and diesel are treated as consumables just like water in Congo-Brazzaville.

I have found the people where I work to be hardworking and passionate. The locals prefer to work from early morning until lunch time. Lots of local gold panners have a better understanding of the alluvial gold deposits in the region than a first time seasoned geologist.

photo of miners panning for gold in congo
Panning for gold in Congo-Brazzaville. Photo courtesy of Mihir Malla.

Doug Turnbull MAusIMM

Principal Mining Engineer, Sandvik Mining

Current location: Cologne, Germany

In January 2012 I moved to Cologne, Germany from Brisbane, Australia. I stayed within the same company, but made the move because undertaking a global role from Australia wasn’t easy – time zones kill you. For ease of covering the world I moved to central Europe as this enables me to contact Australia and east Asia early in the morning and the Americas early in the afternoon.

Highlights of living overseas so far include exposure to many different aspects of life including culture, food, language, people, climate, landscape, and seasons, but there are also many similarities such as attitudes, ways of working, pragmatic mining people, entrepreneurs and visionaries. I have easy access to the rest of historic Europe without a 20 hour flight to get there.

Public transport in Cologne is readily available, easily accessible and cheap – then again, Europe has the population base to make this so, unlike Australia. Cost of living on continental Europe is cheap compared to Australia but fuel costs about the same – that is, expensive – so I stick to public transport.

photo of autumn trees in cologne
View of autumn trees in Cologne. Image courtesy of Doug Turnbull

Anirudh Krishna Sharma MAusIMM(CP)

Principal Geoscientist, RockGeo Resources Pvt Ltd

Current location: India (consulting to African Projects)

Previous locations: Australia, Sweden, Peru, Middle East, South-East Asia, China, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar, Somaliland, Mauritania, Benin, Papua New Guinea

Thanks to being a geoscientist I can consider myself a globetrotter, and my job gives me the chance to explore the world.

In 2014 I went to Mauritania to lead a Banded Iron Formation (BIF) exploration project with my geo team. Though I was excited about exploring BIFs in the Sahara desert, I was scared too. Not because of the appalling climatic conditions and associated project challenges, but because of the mysterious nature of the desert.

There were seemingly endless and destination-less safaris, which involved us traversing across the dunes during field excursions. We danced in fields with the locals and shared our cultures and thoughts. We ate delicious Saharan delicacy and experienced the tremendous hot and dry days and incredibly cold nights. It was a challenge indeed to survive without beer but somehow we managed.

In a nutshell, working in the Sahara sounds petrifying, but it is a dream destination for those who love to explore the unrevealed treasures of the earth. It was an astounding experience that I will cherish for rest of my life.

Anirudh Krishna Sharma working in the Sahara.

Umar Sirait MAusIMM

Current location: Indonesia

Indonesia is a tropical country with two climates: rainy and hot. As a result, most of the islands in Indonesia– such as Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi – have thick soil, and the Indonesian tropical forests have a variety of plant species.

One of Indonesia’s largest exports is palm oil, and if you are going to carry out exploration for minerals and coal mining materials you will very often find oil palm plantations adjacent to the location of the coal or mineral exploration.

Indonesia is geologically situated in between some of the Earth’s plates (Asia, Eurasia, Australia and the Atlantic). This means Indonesia is one of the countries most frequently hit by earthquakes. But Indonesia also has various types of minerals. Copper, gold and silver are mined by Freeport in Papua and Newmont in Nusa Tenggara Barat. These mines have made Indonesia a world-class supplier of copper, gold and silver.

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Searching for coal deposits underneath a layer of palm oil plantations in Penajam Paser Utara, East Kalimantan. Photo courtesy of Umar Sirait.


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