“The technology is fascinating!”
Michelle Montague looks for minerals in the tall walls of a mining blast area or the dredged dirt from deep drilling. She loves being out in the field, finding the ore that’s core to the mining operation.
“It’s like opening a christmas present,” she says.
Role in the big picture?
Geologists support mining operations through two critical functions — by going into the field to find out where the ore is, and by analyzing data that tracks the stability of the land to be mined.
⅓ computer work — logging and modeling data
⅓ in the field — mapping minerals in the area
⅓ management — forecasting projects, purchasing supplies, communication
What inspired you to pursue a career in mining?
“I took a few geology classes because I was interested in rocks,” she said, “then fell in love with it, because of a few good teachers.”
Michelle began her collegiate studies as a business major, with a focus on real estate. When the program was terminated, she was redirected, earning a B.S. degree in Geology from the University of Arizona in 1999.
By 2001, she held master’s degrees in Secondary Education and Geo-Sciences. Her intent was to teach at the community college level.
“I loved geology and wanted to share that passion with other students,” she said.
After teaching in Tucson a few years, Michelle came to Globe for an interview and fell in love with the area, it’s culture and people. She taught at Globe High for seven years before another job ad caught her eye, and she was hired by Freeport McMoran as a geologist.
First job in mining?
Michelle’s first job as a geologist involved a lot of computer work — logging ore collected from the field, grading the minerals and developing models.
“There are many pieces to the puzzle,” she says, describing the data needed to identify the minerals, find the fault lines, and assess the stability of a mining site.
Now a Senior Geologist for Freeport-McMoran’s Miami operations, Michelle has been in mining for over 11 years. As she has advanced in her career, her job entails more management and less geology.
“There’s a lot of communication with other departments,” she explains, adding that her experience as a teacher has been an asset in this regard.
Changes in the mining industry?
“It’s amazing how much has changed,” Michelle says, describing new technologies used in the field to assess site stability. Where prisms were once placed on sand and shot with radar to mark movement of the land, satellites and drones now fly over and provide precise data.
“We can keep everybody safer,” she concludes.
So, how does she keep up with the technological changes?
“The best mining companies,” Michelle says, “are really good at giving training to the engineers and geologists.”
Do you have any advice for women interested in a mining career today?
“If you have a goal, go for it,” she says, “Don’t be afraid to try it.”
She encourages women to seek internships, which are available in a wide range of fields within the mining industry.
“I think it’s a great career for women,” says Michelle. “Internships are a great way to get in and see if you like it.”
Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds. — Gordon B. Hinckley
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.