The power of networking to launch and sustain careers, especially in a cyclical industry such as mining, is personified by geologist Danielle Mountjoy, a mining research associate at Sun Valley Gold LLC in Vancouver.
Despite walking among strangers at her first AME Roundup in 2011, Mountjoy set her sights on meeting people and securing a job for when she graduated from the University of Victoria with an Honours BSc in Earth Sciences. She succeeded, landing a position with Ivanhoe Australia at an exploration project in Queensland. Since then, she has worked as an exploration and production geologist in Canada and Chile and is currently exploring the capital-markets side of the business with Sun Valley Gold LLC, an investment firm specializing in precious metals and mining investments.
“The network I started building at my first Roundup is the same network that has helped me land every job I’ve had,” says Mountjoy, 31, who worked in the Alberta oil patch as a co-op student but gravitated towards mining after finding that she wanted to challenge herself as a geologist and get more hands-on field experience.
Mountjoy’s success in the mining sector motivated her to give back. She joined the organizing committee for Roundup and now acts as co chair of Discovery Day, a free, interactive event held during Roundup that allows members of the public to experience the full mining life cycle, from exploration to mine reclamation. Participants can enjoy a multitude of experiences from panning for gold to virtual-reality tours of mine sites – and enough free cotton candy and hot chocolate to satisfy the sweet tooth of big and little kids alike.
The idea behind Discovery Day, now in its fifth year, is to give members of the public an idea of where minerals come from and why they are so important to everyday life. This year, the event attracted between 300 and 400 people, ranging from young children to retired rock lovers and everything in between.
“We’re trying to help people make the connection between what we use in our daily lives and where it comes from, like the cobalt in rechargeable batteries or the copper used for electricity in our homes,” says Mountjoy. “We want to illustrate that without the mineral exploration and mining industry, our lives would look very, very different.” Mountjoy was attracted to the sector by her love of adventure and the outdoors. As a child, her family spent a lot of time hiking and skiing in the mountains near Edmonton, and later Victoria, and travelling to Australia, where her mother was born. Her training as a geologist helps her appreciate the natural world even more now that she understands how earth systems work.
She considers her current position as a mining research associate with Sun Valley Gold, where she has been working for the past two years, an excellent place to refine the skills needed to assess real value (or absence thereof) in mining businesses. “As much as I love exploration, I wanted to spend more time looking at the bigger picture – including operations, capital markets, governance, and corporate social responsibility – and this job includes all those aspects. Plus, I still get my time in the field as I have the privilege of being able to see numerous exploration to mining-stage projects around the world during site visits.”
Network, network, network
What’s Mountjoy’s advice for aspiring young mining professionals? Go to industry events such as Roundup and the PDAC and, no matter how scary it may seem, approach people, ask lots of questions and find out what people in the industry do and how they got there.
“I can remember very clearly how intimidating it was, but it’s easier than it looks,” she says. “Find a company that values developing and retaining their talent pool. If you’re with a company that wants to help you grow, that can be a very rewarding experience.”