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Lindsay McClenaghan, Principal Geoscientist, Rio Tinto Exploration Canada

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

I started out as a biology major. My aunt is a geologist and had encouraged me take some geology courses, which I did. I landed my first summer field job as a second-year student. Growing up in the city, then being out in the woods with the black flies collecting till samples for diamond exploration I had to learn many new skills quickly. I enjoyed the adventure, the physical challenge and being outdoors for work. This led me to continue with my earth science studies eventually switching my degree to an Honours Specialization in Geology.

Describe your career progression since finishing undergrad.

Following graduation I got a contract field job in Western Canada logging core with Equity Exploration Consultants, I logged core on two different projects in the Yukon and BC both in scenic mountainous locations, what a treat! During the industry downturn in 2008-2009 I was fortunate to have saved enough money from field work to go on a backpacking trip through Australia and Southeast Asia. After my return, I eventually secured a role logging core in Northwestern Ontario on a gold project. However, during my hiatus from work I decided I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in economic geology. I continued working towards this goal and was awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada scholarship. This opened the door to a research project at the Mineral Deposit Research Unit at UBC in Vancouver. Following completion of my MSc studies I joined a mid-tier global resources company, MMG Ltd., as part of their graduate program. This role exposed me to exploration strategies for other commodities and I gained work experience outside of Canada, in South America and Alaska. After 5 years with MMG Ltd, I accepted a mineral exploration role with Rio Tinto to work in Canada based in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

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

Choosing geology sooner may have given my career a head start. I had many other experiences and learnings by doing a minor in pharmacology and toxicology which were beneficial and ultimately steered me to the career I have now.

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

First and foremost, I love the geology, combining observations at different scales, interpreting structural and geochemistry data to make sense of complex earth systems with the goal of making a discovery. The added challenge of achieving this in remote or unfamiliar environments makes it even more rewarding.

The main thing I would change is gender balance in the mineral exploration industry. The ‘leaky pipeline’ is a well known problem, but the gender imbalance still exists at all levels. I would like to see a concerted effort to improve gender equity with strategic hiring initiatives and quality training sessions to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Having more females as role models in senior leadership positions would be inspiring.

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

I would like to see women who are passionate about geology contributing to academia, the public sector and industry to their fullest potential. I would like them to feel comfortable, supported, safe at work and have a positive work life balance. Women have and will continue to contribute great achievements to science and society.

Why should it be important for everyone?

Diversity promotes creativity, can increase productivity, and is reported to create a safer work environment among many other benefits.

These benefits are critical for mineral companies to remain competitive and meet the evolving needs of our modern world: demand for clean energy, growing cities, technological innovation, and sustainable agriculture.

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

Young women should support and champion each other. I would also recommend becoming involved in professional societies or organizations. Joining the Society of Economic Geology created many opportunities for me in my early career including participation on international field trips, excellent networking, and development of my leadership skills by volunteering on the executive committee. I would recommend getting involved in this type of extracurricular activity.

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

The benefit of living in Northern Ontario is easy access to the wilderness. With my family, I enjoy backcountry canoe trips, sailing on Lake Superior, hiking and cross country skiing in the local area. I also enjoy travelling to new places, engaging with different cultures, learning their history, and trying new foods.

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