By Melissa Keogh
South Australian geologist and engineer Katie Hulmes admits that earlier in her mining career, she’d look around and realise the room was full of men.
But that scenario is increasingly changing, says the 35-year-old General Manager Transformation and Readiness at one of South Australia’s largest mining companies, OZ Minerals.
She says it’s both men and women who have helped shape her successful career in mining, an industry that employs 10,000 South Australians.
“I’ve been really lucky to work with amazing men and women throughout my entire career, and OZ Minerals has always brought a diversity of thought and process to what we do,” she says.
“It’s definitely changed over the years, absolutely there are more women now.”
Joining the ASX-listed company in 2008, Katie’s current role involves helping OZ Minerals – one of Australia’s largest copper producers – progress as a modern mining company.
She began her career in the mining sector at the age of just 17, working as a field engineer for Golder Associates while, at the same time, pursuing a geology degree at the University of Adelaide.
The 35-year-old has not only managed to establish a career in the state’s mining sector, but maintain it here too, and says opportunities exist for others to follow suit.
“I’m a firm believer that individuals can create opportunities and SA is full of them,” says Katie, an I Choose SA ambassador for the energy and mining sector.
“I think when people go into university, they shouldn’t be thinking that they can’t because they absolutely can get a job in mining.
“Mining doesn’t just need people to come out with degrees in geology and mining engineering, we need people with a range of skills – as an example we employ data scientists, communication specialists, lawyers, nanotechnology engineers and biochemists.
“It doesn’t necessarily matter the field you study, there are opportunities in this industry.”
Katie took an unconventional path into the workforce, working full-time in the mining industry while undertaking her bachelor’s degree.
After Golder Associates, she worked for a company then called Resource and Environmental Management at Prominent Hill, south east of Coober Pedy in the state’s Far North.
Prominent Hill is OZ Minerals’ copper-gold mining operation that produces one of the market’s highest grades of copper concentrate.
While flying in and out of Prominent Hill, Katie also pursued her second degree, a Bachelor of Engineering (civil and environmental).
She witnessed OZ Minerals’ transformation in 2015, when it relocated its headquarters from Melbourne to Adelaide to be closer to its flagship operation.
Aside from Prominent Hill and projects across Australia and in Brazil, OZ Minerals also owns Carrapateena, a copper gold deposit 160km north of Port Augusta.
“SA was a local place to our operating asset at the time. It was a more affordable place to do business, so it made sense to position ourselves here,” Katie says.
“We changed our workforce, our direction and our vision and really tried to lift being a modern mining company to the forefront of everything we do.
“It allowed us to reconsolidate. It was an exciting time.”
Last year came a big announcement – board approval of a $916m investment to develop the Carrapateena mine.
The project is set to create 1000 jobs from construction through to production. It will be a 4.5 million tonne per annum (Mtpa) underground operation with an estimated life of 20 years.
Construction on site has commenced, with the airstrip completed recently. Commissioning of the mine is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2019.
Katie says the operation will not only benefit direct job creation, but will also have flow on effects for supply chain companies throughout the Upper Spencer Gulf.
The impact on local community’s livelihood and prosperity will also be felt, she says.
“There is excitement in the community around Carrapateena getting started,” Katie says.
“As we are promising local employment and procurement, I believe there will be flow on opportunities for the next 20 years in the region.”
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