“It’s just a huge puzzle. I love that!”
“I find it fascinating,” says Joanna Marshall, describing the small bits of rock she studies as a geologist for Resolution Copper. “It’s a huge jigsaw puzzle and you’re missing most of the pieces. You bring in your geological knowledge to create a feasible model.”
Big Picture Role
“We want to find the copper,” she explains. “Our job is to establish how much copper is in the core, and where to find it.”
Geologists get this information from drill core – roughly 4 inch cylinders mined from the shaft that can be thousands of feet long,, analyzed in 10 to 20 feet sections. The drillers mine the core and bring it to the geology offices where it is cleaned, analyzed and stored.
“Because Resolution is such a deep deposit, we need a lot of information about the ore before we drill,” explains Joanna.
Joanna works with a team of people and computer software to make 3-D models from the drill core data. The goal is to understand what’s going on underground. New models are created every six to eight months to integrate new information.
“Once we’re happy with a model, we pass it onto the mining engineers,” explains Joanna, “and they make the plan for how to get the rock out of the mine.”
Every day starts with a meeting of all the geologists, to discuss the safety hazards of the day and review general safety.
75% work on 3-D resource models
25% communication, meetings
How were you inspired to pursue mining?
“My favorite thing is to go hiking in the hills,” Joanna says.
Joanna grew up around mining. Her father was a hard rock miner and worked all over the world. But it was a trip to some South African mines in her 4th year of college that helped her see mining as a career option. She graduated, in 2009, with a degree in environmental engineering.
“I was going to save the planet,” she says.
The global recession steered her back to school; she earned a Master’s degree at Campbell’s School of Mines a year later. During this course of study she learned 3-D modeling.
“That’s what interested me most,” Joanna says; it remains the favorite part of her work.
Joanna was hired by Rio Tinto while working on her PhD. at a mining site in Peru. She’s now been with the company for 8 ½ years; four years ago she came to Resolution Copper to get core logging experience, which she deems invaluable.
“Every geologist needs one-on-one time working with the rocks,” says Joanna. “If you don’t know the rocks, the numbers mean nothing.”
It helps to be detail-oriented and to have a thirst for knowledge, according to Joanna, and of course, to like shiny rocks. Her favorite is bornite.
“It’s got a lot of copper and it’s very beautiful,” says. “They call it peacock ore; it has all the colors of a peacock tail.”
Outlook on the mining industry
“It’s interesting and exciting,” says Joanna. She encourages women interested in a career in mining to “go for it.”
“We’re working hard to make an equal partnership,” she says, “and it’s happening.”
In the last 10 years, there’s been a lot of push on safety. That will continue, she says and notes with pride that Rio Tinto had zero fatalities last year for the first time ever.
“Everyone wants copper. The demand is not going away,” says Joanna, “As long as people want cell phones and air conditioners, there will be mining.”
There is a need, she stresses, to make mining as green as possible.
“I want that for my kids,” says Joanna, “I’m still that geologist at heart that wants to save the planet.”
At the time of this interview, Joanna was expecting the birth of her second child. Born in northern England, she resides in Mesa with her husband, a geologist turned high school teacher, who’s been “happy to move around the world” with her. They enjoy hiking in the hills, running and triathlons, and traveling, much of it job-related.
“I’ve seen some amazing places,” she says.
Favorite Quote –
“All models are wrong, but some are useful.”
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.