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Regina Baumgartner, PhD, P. Geo

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

I chose to study geology due to my love for the outdoors and camping. The idea of being paid to do what I love was a dream come true! I had a passion for travel and economic geology seemed like the perfect career to explore the world beyond just holidays. My knowledge of geology/geoscience was limited before I started. Being from Switzerland, the Alps intrigued me, and I wanted to learn more. One other aspect that attracted me is that geology is an inexact science, as is medicine. It gives room to a lot of creativity and there are different ways to reach a goal, which might not always be the case with exact sciences such as engineering. 

Describe your career progression since finishing undergrad.

My honours thesis was focused on geophysics. I knew that a combination of geophysics and economic geology would be beneficial, which led me to pursue an MSc in that field. Shortly after, I continued with a PhD. Since then, I have travelled and worked in many countries in various roles, each one exciting. My experiences include spending two years exploring the Peruvian Andes for greenfields exploration, discovering geometallurgy in several advanced projects around the globe and different commodities for eight years, spending five years at a mine in Peru learning the secrets of a processing plant, and in the last three years, leading a team that works on exciting projects from mineralogy and geometallurgy to decarbonization. Not a single day has been boring.

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

I believe I would have chosen the same degree and career trajectory. Economic geology is the most enjoyable part of geology as it involves travelling the world and working to find and optimize the commodities the world needs for a better life. I would however try to get most out of all undergrad courses as I forgot the content of some that I could benefit now.

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

The best aspects of my career are:

  1. The people I’ve met and learned from. I’ve encountered amazing individuals who were always willing to teach and share their knowledge. Some trusted me to take on new challenges. I consider myself fortunate to learn new things every day from my team and others. There are always new ways to do things. It’s so exciting to see improvements and innovations from my team and the industry.

  2. Travelling around the globe. I’ve travelled extensively, even to places where people wouldn’t typically go on holidays. This has taught me about other cultures and ways of thinking. I’ve seen amazing landscapes and met incredible people. These experiences are lifelong memories.

  3. Specializing in geometallurgy after two years of greenfields exploration. I enjoy working in a data-rich environment where I can delve into the data to identify opportunities and risks. Also, working with engineers taught me to be more exact in some aspects and learn their language. I really enjoy working with them.

Things I would change:

  1. I might not spend 5 years in a mine at high altitude, although it was a great experience. It can be tough on the body.

  2. I would try to examine more rocks. Since they cannot speak, one must spend time with them to understand all the underlying analyses such as geochemistry and mineralogy, among others.

  3. I would live closer to my direct family, although Switzerland does not offer many mining industry careers. So maybe not achievable with the type of career I chose.

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

Gender balance is important as it brings diversity of thoughts, ideas, and behaviours.

It’s not only important in exploration/mining/geoscience, but also in all fields. Gender balance is just one piece of the equity, diversity, and inclusion equation. The bottom line is that the mining industry must aim towards a work-life balance that can accommodate women to have the same opportunities as men. I still see some women struggling to have a good work-life balance due to some inflexibility in their employers.  

Why should it be important for everyone?

Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy their career and learn from everyone. I would like to see more of not only gender balance but also overall equity, diversity, and inclusion. It’s a two-way street where each path should be enjoyable and filled with opportunities without hurdles, frustrations, and discrimination.

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

Expand your network and talk to people. Professionals love talking about their experiences and will always be happy to chat with a young woman starting a career. This also allows you to understand what you really like and want in the mining industry. Conferences, workshops, field trips, and courses are the best venues to meet people and start a conversation. It is good to be flexible at the start of the career to get most exposure to different aspects of the mining industry to be able to understand the business later in the career. All disciplines are connected at the end.

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

I love skiing and enjoy it every winter as I live 5 minutes from a ski resort. It gives me the energy to enjoy what life offers and to engage in a lot of extra geoscience-related activities outside of my daily job. However, it wasn’t always like this. I spent 14 years in South America where food and cooking were the main motivation. In addition, travelling is always on my calendar and provides me with relaxing moments to spend with my family and friends.

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