“We have to be a world-class organization.”
Colleen Roche has a big job in a medium-sized company. To stay competitive, her team has to be efficient. As Operations Support Manager for Capstone Mining in Pinto Valley, her mandate is to keep operations focused on producing copper.
“Everything that is not in the line of copper production falls to us,” explains Colleen. “We’ve helped the business by having a budget everyone buys into, and developing a roadmap for projects based on priorities determined by the group.”
Big Picture Responsibilities:
Colleen reports to the General Manager of Pinto Valley Mine and manages a $75 million budget with a staff of superintendents, supervisors and crew workers with specialties in four areas of Operations Support: IT, Engineering/Capital Projects, Health, Safety and Environment, and Fleet and Facilities.
“All employees have a role in the success of the company,” she says. “They need to tell us what they need to be safe and successful, and we need to get it for them.
Day to Day
⅓ actively supervising employees in the field
⅓ building systems (for efficiency) — strategy, software
⅓ supporting personnel — career development, communication
First job in mining?
Colleen earned a degree in mining engineering at McGill University in Montreal and got a job mining diamonds near the arctic circle. She worked in various roles — mining engineering, short-term planning, drill and blast work.
“They want you to be well-rounded,” Colleen explains.
Colleen and her colleagues collaborated with the local people to ensure the fragile ecosystem would withstand the impact of mining.
“All of that interested me more than day-to-day mining,” she says.
After four years in Yellow Knife, Colleen moved to Vancouver to earn a master’s degree at the University of British Columbia.
Capstone Mining hired her in 2007 to serve as primary liaison with the local community as the Minto Mine was constructed and began commercial copper production.
By 2012, Colleen, 33, was acting General Manager of Minto Mine and pregnant with her first child. Deeming the worksite commute incompatible with motherhood, she took a position in the corporate office. Three years later, with her husband and two sons, Colleen moved to Arizona, and began working at the Pinto Valley Mine.
“I think I’m one of the longest serving employees for Capstone,” she says proudly.
Why did you choose to go into mining?
While in high school, a substantial nickel ore deposit was discovered on the western shore of Potato Island, not far from her home in Newfoundland, Canada.
“It was always in the news,” she recalls, “and I imagined there would be good career opportunities in mining.”
She also noted that mining had a lot of critics, but believes the best way to address concerns about something is to get involved.
“Steer it in the right direction,” she says, “that’s a more effective way of making a change.”
Changes in the mining industry?
“It’s a pretty dynamic work environment,” Colleen says, noting the most striking change in the workforce. “It’s not how it was 20 years ago.”
Women in mining typically held HR and administrative roles. Now women are seen as drivers, mechanics, electricians and welders.
“It’s been so refreshing to have a more gender-balanced workforce.”
Do you have any advice for women interested in a mining career today?
“Just consider mining,” says Colleen. “There are great careers in this industry. Mining companies are great employers. They offer training and tuition support programs for a range of jobs. Technology has brought us to the point where you don’t have to have a very physical job to be in mining.”
As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it. — Albert Einstein
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.