HOW HAS MATHEMATICS HELPED YOU IN YOUR CAREER? HOW IS IT USED IN MINING?
Without maths I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am a geologist by training and studied chemistry, biology and pure mathematics with mechanics to go to university. Applied science was very appealing to me although my father had doubts I would land a job with such a subject! Earlier in my career my roles focused heavily on technical skills for geoscience—engineering geology, geostatistics and ore deposits generation—all of which use applied maths.
Although my day to day job is now less hands on with the technical aspects of geoscience, I use maths every single day in different and wonderful ways—whether in reviewing a technical report, reviewing performance data or trying to understand and solve a business-related problem. It does not need to be specifically about geology for me to apply the science, technology, engineering mathematics (STEM) skills I have developed.
WITH THE HIGH DEMAND FOR STEM SKILLS, WHAT OPPORTUNITIES EXIST FOR MATHEMATICS GRADUATES ACROSS THE MINING AND RESOURCES SECTOR?
There is enormous variety for STEM graduates in the mining and resources sector. As with any big company, BHP Billiton employs people in all sorts of finance, science and engineering roles all around the globe. There are lots of roles available in the scientific fields but my passion has always been geoscience. Geoscientists use maths every day; whether in the geostatistics that define the value of the resources we will mine, or in the geomechanics that predict how the rock may behave and how we can keep our people safe or in the performance measures we monitor and evaluate to understand our performance. Our geoscientists are all applied mathematicians and an amazing and passionate cohort of scientists. There are roles that engage science in mining, which might surprise you. For example, the metallurgists who work with the process engineers to maximise recovery from ore and minimise the deleterious materials that reduce value. Or a field specialist collecting flora and fauna data for rehabilitation at a mine site, would likely have continued maths and stats from high school into university to get a degree in Environmental Science.
Environmental surveying is one of those amazing jobs where you get to work in remote and beautiful places. Of course there are the roles that we haven’t even dreamt of yet. The resources industry has a proud history of invention and innovation – much of it led by the scientists and engineers of the day. A great present day example of this is at our remote operating centres. These centres use real time data monitoring to centralise control across our operations – often from many, many kilometres away. The system architecture that sits behind them is remarkable and the idea that we could have done this even or 20 or 30 years ago is unthinkable. Just imagine then what the possibilities could be in another 20 or 30 years. STEM graduates will be vital to the future of the industry and to our way of life. The opportunities are endless.
Laura Tyler: BHP Billiton, Chief of Staff & Head of Geosciences