Celebrating Women in Mining

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At the NSW Women in Mining Awards on March 30,we celebrated the achievements of remarkable women and acknowledged the companies who are driving initiatives to support inclusiveness and gender diversity.

The Awards help recognise the achievements of women and gender diversity champions, demonstrating to young women the potential career opportunities in the NSW mining industry.

Women are still vastly underrepresented in the mining industry and face various barriers and challenges, including discrimination, harassment, and a lack of support for work-life balance.

These Awards are aimed at increasing the participation of women in mining and we congratulate not only the winners, but the thousands of women across the mining industry who are breaking down barriers and creating new possibilities for the next generation of women.

NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee congratulated all of the winners and finalists.

“There are many incredible women in our NSW mining industry and these Awards celebrate their achievements in a range of fields,” Mr Galilee said.

“From technology and innovation to engineering and trades, as well as in operational roles and running businesses, our award winners highlight the opportunities for women in mining, and showcase the career paths available in our sector.”

The winners in the five award categories will be entered into the Women in Resources National Awards.

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Exceptional Woman in Mining

Bianca Newcombe

Principal Metallurgist, OptiFroth Solutions

Bianca owns and is the Principal Metallurgist at OptiFroth Solutions. After graduating with her Bachelor of Engineering in 1998, Bianca went on to complete her PhD in Mineral Processing in 2014. Initially working on mine sites in production metallurgy and for companies such as Newcrest and Evolution Mining, Bianca later started her own business, OptiFroth Solutions.

Since 2009, Bianca has been published in over 20 papers in both peer-reviewed journals and conferences both in Australia and internationally and has also been on the Minerals Engineering peer review panel since 2015 and the Mill Operators Conference Committee since 2017. She is a long-standing member and past chair of the AusIMM Metallurgical Society.

In 2016, Bianca started MetFest, an informal metallurgist conference in Central West NSW. MetFest has been a huge success and is now replicated in many locations, including Kalgoorlie, Perth, Adelaide, Tasmania and Brisbane. Bianca is proud that the informal environment of MetFest allows students, young professionals, and women to present their work in a low-pressure environment, allowing them to experience public speaking, build confidence and establish a strong regional network.

“One of the most common questions I get from young women is asking if the industry has changed since I graduated. I have worked on many mine sites and I can honestly say that most of the time I was the only woman in the meeting, and on site. Fast forward to now and 50% of the time there is at least one other woman in the meeting. In terms of female representation, we still have a long way to go. We need to be in there getting these girls ready for engineering from as soon as they enter high school.” Bianca Newcombe

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Exceptional Young Woman in Mining

Hollie Sampson

Aboriginal Community Relations Officer, Whitehaven Coal

A proud Gomeroi woman, Hollie grew up in the remote town of Quirindi in North West NSW. After finishing high school, Hollie initially began studying Biomedical Science at university before making a quick switch to Social Science, completing her degree in 2021 and becoming the first person in her family to graduate from university.

Hollie joined Whitehaven in her current role as Aboriginal Community Relations Officer in 2020, where she has successfully built relationships across all facets of the business, with people from local communities to Whitehaven executives and senior members of external organisations.

Hollie has led key projects, helping to establish the Maules Creek Indigenous Mentoring Program, and assisted in guiding Whitehaven’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) endorsement with Reconciliation Australia in 2021. Through this work Hollie coordinated various events such as the company NAIDOC and NRW celebrations, and cultural awareness training sessions.

In 2021 Hollie was selected to attend Minerals Week 2021, and the International Mining and Resources Conference 2022, enabling her to engage face-to-face with Indigenous Women in Mining and Resources Australia.

“I’m so honoured to be up here and receive this award. It’s been a group effort from the whole team at Whitehaven. I’m so grateful to work for a company that recognises the importance of women in our workforce and really puts their words in actions when it comes to supporting women across the business at the many different stages of their careers. These awards are important to recognise all the amazing women in our industry, but also to provide role models for young women and show them even if you are from a really small town like me anything is possible.” Hollie Sampson

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Outstanding Tradeswoman, Operator or Technician

Julie Smith

Operator – Ancillary, Evolution Mining Cowal Gold Operations

In 2008, Julie joined Northparkes Mining (Northparkes) in a truck driving position. During her first nine years in mining, Julie operated trucks, rollers, water carts, dispatch, and in 2010 became a member of the Cowal Gold Operations Emergency Response Team (ERT).

In 2018, Julie’s career progressed with an opportunity to get back into a grader and, at the same time, was promoted to crew trainer. Julie now has a trainer assessor qualification from SES and is a first aid trainer for the organisation. Julie has also become a loader operator for three different-size loaders. In 2022 Julie was elected as a Health Safety Representative (HSR), another qualification she gained through SES.

Julie has also used her exceptional skills to contribute to her local community, applying her ERT training and skills for the RFS at the 2013 Lithgow fires, the Tumut and surrounding area fires from 2019-2022, and for the SES during 2012, 2016, 2021 and 2022 floods, as well as many other local fires, floods, storms, emergencies, and road crashes.

“I originally applied for an admin job looking for a change from a very physical abattoir role, never did I imagine I would be operating heavy equipment 15 years later. When I first said I was going into mining people said isn’t that for rough women you’re too girly for mining, and you only got the job to meet the female quota. That hurt but it made me more determined to make it work. We’re all individuals, we’re all diverse, and we’re all here working in mining. That’s a huge achievement for every female and every other person who goes into mining.” Julie Smith

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Technological Innovation Award

Joanne Henry

Project Manager – Technology, WesTrac – Development and Implementation of Autonomous Drilling Technology

Joanne’s career journey started in 2008 when she graduated from Durham University (England) with a Bachelor of Science in Geophysics with Geology and decided to apply for a role across the other side of the world as an exploration geologist in Brisbane.

After gaining further experience as a consultant geophysicist, and a short career detour, Joanne returned to the mining industry to begin her current role as Project Manager for Technology at WesTrac. It was here that Joanne embarked on the development and implementation of WesTrac’s autonomous drilling technology project.

The project aimed to implement autonomous, multi-pass drilling technology within a production mining environment. The development of this technology led to several world-firsts for Caterpillar and the dealer in the implementation of the technology for drilling. This project was the first to operate two different types of drills autonomously from a single Remote Operator System located in an office onsite and then in Remote Operating Centres 120km and 750km offsite. The technology has also delivered a 20 per cent improvement in drilling performance.

“I take pride in being a member of this industry and although this award ceremony is exclusive for women in mining, I don’t perceive myself in that narrow context. This is my industry and throughout my almost fifteen-year career in it I have always felt supported and that I belong here. I’m grateful that I have been able to carve a career path that I am truly passionate about. I will use this award to continue to drive my passion to promote STEM in education, and to empower and encourage more women to pursue careers in the wonderful industry.” Joanne Henry

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Inclusion and Diversity Champion

Lucy McClean

Director NSW, VIC, TAS, AMEC (Association of Mining and Exploration Companies)

Lucy is in her third year as Chair of WIMnet NSW, the key network to support, nurture, connect, recognise and empower women in the NSW resources sector. Lucy’s tenure as Chair has seen a 43 per cent increase in mentee/mentor participation as well as an increase in industry sponsorship. Lucy has also volunteered as a WIMnet NSW mentor since 2017.

Lucy’s passion and promotion of women and girls is long standing. She has done this through her voluntary work in Women in Mining NSW (WIMnet NSW), mentoring women, presenting to school age girls and providing industry opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls over many years, as well as advocacy during her roles in her career.

Lucy was recognised internationally in 2022 as one of the one of ‘100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining’.

It is such an honour to receive this award and to work in such an amazing industry. None of us do this alone and I must acknowledge the amazing work by the WIMnet NSW committee. What really inspires me to get out of bed and do the amazing things that we all do together is my three gorgeous children who are now entering the workforce. I work so hard because I want them to have a more inclusive, diverse, stronger, smarter, safer workforce than the one that I entered.” Lucy McClean

Excellence in Company Programs and Performance


Delivering measurable change in inclusion and diversity performance

Mt Arthur Coal has been focused on delivering measurable change in its Inclusion and diversity performance for a number of years. Since 2019 it has delivered a step change in female representation in its workforce, shifting the dial from 12.7% in June 2019 to 23% as of December 2022. Mt Arthur Coal has also seen diversity within the workforce shift with Indigenous representation moving from 3.3% in June 2019 to 7% in December 2022.

The site-based Inclusion and Diversity Council (IDC) seeks to address female attraction, retention, and inclusion on site and has been in operation since 2016. Two programs delivered in 2022 have provided a real shift in female retention and representation, underpinned by a committed and authentic leadership team that is seeking to effect real change within the Mt Arthur operation by achieving 100 percent participation (2500 workers) in the IDC programs by 2025.

These first IDC program in operation is the Active Bystander Training, which aims to stop bullying, sexual assault, and sexual harassment and the second IDC program in operation is the Inclusion Workshop series which seeks to shift unconscious bias and challenge belief systems.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Newcrest Mining Limited – Cadia Valley Operations

Inclusive Leadership

Newcrest’s Cadia 2021/22 Inclusive Leadership Training Program is designed to equip leaders with the tools to seek out and value differences.

210 site-based leaders have participated in the training, which consists of: conversations (“Mirror Walks”) with Cadia’s Senior Leadership Team, a 360 Feedback Tool to measure how leaders demonstrate inclusivity, and Inclusive Leadership Training.

The Inclusive Leadership Training highlights the power of inclusion in driving performance; provides approaches for building a culture of respect and trust; explores how leaders can best use their power and influence to drive positive change and create a culture of inclusivity; and creates a safe space to share insights and hear stories about what inclusion means for different people.

The greatest indicator of the success of the Inclusive Leadership Program is that it has now become part of the mandatory leaders ‘Managing Matters’ course, and the Psychological Safety component of the program is currently being incorporated into Newcrest’s Site Safety program, which is mandatory for everyone who enters Cadia including employees, contractors and suppliers.

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