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Lara McClintock, MSc., Geoscientist

How did you decide on pursuing your degree(s)? Did you know about geology before you entered university?

I always had a strong desire to pursue a career that helped people and I started my university studies with the intention of becoming a doctor. I spent some time in the UK and had the opportunity to shadow a family member who was a doctor. Although it was an enriching experience, I had doubts about whether medicine was truly the right fit for me. At one point, I had a life-changing conversation with their neighbour who happened to be a hydrogeologist. As he shared his first-year experiences and spoke passionately about field schools and discovery, I found myself completely hooked. I explored career options in the earth sciences and learned how mining can have a positive impact on people and communities. This realization satisfied my desire to help people while also fueling my natural curiosity about the world we live in. So, I made the decision to change my major to Earth Sciences in my second year of university.

Describe your career progression since finishing undergrad.

Before I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I had some great opportunities to work with junior mining companies and complete research projects at my university. One of my most challenging and memorable experiences was my first job as a field assistant with three other geologists. We spent weeks out in the field without access to showers, surviving on granola, braving extreme weather and bears, while enjoying sampling and mapping some neat rocks. It was a great introduction to mineral exploration in BC for me and it complemented what I was learning in the classroom. During the school year, I worked as an undergraduate research assistant and had the opportunity to assist on different research projects with my professor. After completing my undergraduate degree, I started my career with Teck Resources. I also completed a master's degree program through Simon Fraser University on an emerald deposit in Norway. Dring that time, I was fortunate enough to work in the industry during the summers and complete fieldwork in Norway in the fall.

One season I had the unique experience of working on an all-female mapping team. There were four of us living and working out of a bunkhouse in southeastern BC. It was a very supportive and empowering experience that I feel very lucky to have had. With Teck Resources, I worked on a variety of projects ranging from grassroots to brownfields exploration, as well as at the Red Dog Mine in Alaska. In 2019, I made a leap from Teck to South32 focusing on base metal generative and evaluation opportunities in North America.

If you could go back to your first year in undergrad, would you pick the same degree and career trajectory? Why/why not?

I would, I was fortunate that I had completed my first-year sciences before changing my major to Earth Sciences. It afforded me an opportunity to take different courses in my second year such as geography, statistics and anthropology which are all pertinent and complimentary to having a career in mineral exploration. Mineral exploration is a dynamic field of study, and I enjoyed learning all aspects of geology and our industry.

One of the things I enjoyed most about studying Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University was being part of a small department. It gave me the chance to take part in numerous practical field programs, and I have many fond memories of learning from my professors, graduate students and making close friendships with my peers.

What are the three best things about your job/career? What are three things you would change?

The three best things about my career:

  1. Like many other geologists, I am driven by the spirit of discovery. I love that our work is dynamic, which allows me to explore ideas and new environments. Exploration fuels a natural curiosity within myself and I enjoy being able to test ideas in the field or through other innovative ways – in the hope of finding a mineral deposit.

  2. My current role involves collaborating with mining partners, consultants, and geoscience team members to identify new base metal opportunities, with a particular focus on North America. This has exposed me to a diverse range of projects and experts, which has been an enriching learning experience. Every day brings a fresh set of challenges and opportunities, and I love the dynamic nature of my role.

  3. Geologists often work in the traditional Indigenous lands and territories, making it essential to build trust and foster relationships with these communities. In my work, I prioritize these values and work closely with community stakeholders. Spending time with Indigenous women in rural Alaska, picking berries and sharing meals of salmon, whale, or seal oil has been a profound experience for me. Through these interactions, I have developed a deep appreciation for the importance of subsistence and the important connection these communities have with the land. It brings me great joy to share my knowledge of minerals with these communities and learning from them in return.

Three things I would change:

  1. It can be difficult to make yourself heard, so it's important to find your voice and speak up. I personally found it challenging in my early career to develop the confidence to express my thoughts, ideas, or concerns, especially when I was the only female in the group, but with practice, it has become much easier.

  2. Balancing work and personal life require effort to maintain healthy boundaries. I've found it challenging at times to prioritize family and loved ones while also meeting professional responsibilities, particularly when you are working out in the field regularly.

  3. Professional development opportunities in our industry tend to focus on technical or "hard" skills. However, I believe that it would be beneficial to incorporate more opportunities to develop "soft" skills, especially for managing teams and people. This would be a significant step forward in supporting professionals in their career growth and help build inclusive workplaces.

Why is gender balance in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience important to you?

To me, achieving gender balance in the mining industry is crucial. It goes beyond promoting diversity of perspectives and ideas; it also plays a significant role in challenging prevailing stereotypes and biases about who is suitable for and should be involved in our industry. My personal experiences, like those of many others, have included instances of discrimination and harassment, and speaking out about them is crucial in driving meaningful change. Furthermore, achieving gender balance is essential for attracting and retaining talented individuals, ensuring the industry's long-term sustainability and success.

Why should it be important for everyone?

Not only does a lack of diversity and gender balance in the industry mean missing out on valuable scientific minds, but it also hinders decision-making, innovation, and relationship building. A team with diverse backgrounds and experiences can approach problems from multiple perspectives, think creatively, and develop more effective solutions. Inclusion and diversity foster a collaborative and open-minded environment that benefits everyone involved.

What advice would you give to young women starting a career in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?

Build a strong network of contacts, including female mentors and colleagues. Organizations like Women Geoscientists of Canada are great resources to connect with like-minded professionals and seek guidance when needed.

Attend conferences and talks to gain industry knowledge and meet other geologists. It's an opportunity to not only expand your scientific knowledge but also practice essential communication and networking skills.

Don't be afraid to seek advice and speak up about any challenges you face. It's important to address any obstacles early on in your career to ensure that you continue to grow and succeed. Remember that your voice and ideas are valuable and deserve to be heard.

Be confident in your abilities and work hard to develop your skills. The field of mineral exploration can be competitive at times, but with dedication and persistence, you can achieve your goals and make a positive impact in the industry.

What motivates you and keeps you busy outside of mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?

When I’m not exploring for minerals, I spend my time with my husband, Michael and expert stick retriever, Ollie, a golden-border collie mix at our family cabin where we play ice hockey on the lake in the winters or fish for trout in the summers.

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