The challenge to design something 10 years in the future!”
Anita Marks is a principal engineer, processing. In charge of the design of the concentrator to treat ore from the Resolution Copper underground mine, she is part of the team developing mine plans, tailings pipeline corridors, and a water sourcing strategy. She’s been in mining since the late 1980’s.
“My dad thought I should be a nurse because that’s what smart females do,” Anita says.
He was an auto mechanic. Her mother did “a little bit of everything.” Anita says they had no idea what she was doing, but came to every mine she ever worked.
“They were always in awe of what mining was all about,” she reflects.
Big Picture Role
“We’re designing and engineering a large copper mine,” Anita explains. “We need to process the ore.”
She’ll apply 30 years of experience and 14-15 years of testing data to the challenge and determine how to develop a concentrator and what it will cost. Anita isn’t sure she’ll be around when the plant goes into production in 2028, but she hopes so
“It would be lovely,” she says. “I want to help create a plant that people want to work at. The best of the best. Easy to operate. Easy to maintain. That’s the legacy I want to leave.”
Her work involves a lot of time at her desk and in meetings, reviewing design criteria, exploring new ideas for processing ore. Sometimes she visits other facilities to see equipment in the plant.“The challenge to design something 10 years in the future,” says Anita,”is how to use new technology, but not too new that it won’t work.”
How did you get started in mining?
“By fluke and by golly,” Anita says, noting that no one in her family had ever done mining.
She pursued engineering at the University of British Columbia. Although drawn to mechanics and geology by “fabulous teachers,” when it came time to choose an emphasis, she chose mining.
“They were serving free beer and pizza at the mining booth,” Anita recalls the career day at the end of her first year, “and everyone there had a summer job or a job once they graduated.”
When she graduated in 1988 with a degree in Applied Science — Mining and Mineral Process Engineering, both she and her soon-to-be husband had multiple job offers.
In her first mining job as a junior metallurgist, Anita did a little of everything — sampling, testing, analysis, operations. She chose to specialize in processing. Her husband chose engineering. Throughout their careers, they worked for seven different companies, a couple of them twice. They loved their co-workers.
“We’re kind of the same mold,” Anita says. “Mining people like to work, work hard, and play hard.”
In mostly five-year stints, they moved back and forth between Canada and the American southwest — Silver City, NM, Salt Lake City, Carlsbad.
“Ultimately we loved the southwest and wanted to live here,” says Anita.
In 2016, Anita took a job with Resolution Copper as the Principal Advisor for Processing. They now live in Gold Canyon, AZ.
Outlook on the mining industry
“It’s gotten a lot safer,” says Anita, noting dramatic changes in safety over the past 30 years. “They teach you how to be safe. You need to follow the rules.”
“It’s also becoming more automated,” she says describing underground operations operated by people on the surface using joysticks. “It’s becoming more technical.”
Sometimes, though, you need to look at the ore, and not just rely on data. Anita and her “older compatriots” agree that field work is essential to understanding.
“You need to touch and feel it,” she says.
Advice to women interested in mining career:
Do it. It’s a great job. It’s a career. The pay is phenomenal. The benefits are great. The people are great. Even if you don’t have a math skill, go into mining. There is no limit to where you can go. Even if you think it’s scary.
For Anita, a career in mining has been “a hugely successful and embracing experience”,
“Once they figured out that I know what I’m talking about, I was respected by everyone I worked with,” she says, “You have to earn it. Whether you’re male or female.”
“Just do it,” says Anita, with a nod to the Nike swoosh. “You learn more from your failures than you do from your successes.”
A traveler, Patti Daley came to Globe in 2016 to face the heat, follow love, and find desert treasure. She writes in many formats and records travel scraps and other musings at daleywriting.com.