Engineering an end to mining disasters with Alex Atkins
About Alex Atkins
Got into engineering WA School of Mines at a camp Focus in Mining in Kalgoolie. Enjoyed the independence she experienced in this program and just “jumped in and did it”.
Alex is an Engineer who graduated from Curtin University with a Bachelor of Engineering and the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Engineering (Mining). She also holds an MBA in Finance from the Australian Institute of Business.
She has been in the mining industry for 30 years. The first 15 years were in mine site operational roles. After working in consulting, she is on the board of an ASX200 listed mining company and a Director of International Women in Mining and a Director of Global Mining Sustainability.
Alex has 2 kids and enjoys gardening.
Alex is involved with Curtin University Autism program (this was previously mention in #Ep40 by Susan Kreemer Pickford)
Alex enjoyed working in mines, irrespective of the legal climate
“had a wonderful time up there, I was illegal and taboo”
Alex really progressed her career with thanks to Mark Hine
“he’s actually responsible for some pretty big things that have happened to me in my career.”
A highlight has been to get onto the ASX Board ofAusdrill “It was completely life changing”
“for a mining engineer, a female mining engineer, to get on the board of an ASX 200 mining company….. is a pretty big thing.”
Hot Topic discussion
We focus on Tailings Dam failures specifically, but Alex doesn’t like any mining disaster.
“Mine Disasters… get me pretty upset”
There are 3,500 tailings dams around the world, 1, 200 are upstream… These are now illegal in Chile.
Alex’s career has been “an exploration to understand why mining disasters happen, because I don’t like them happening, I’d like to stop it.”
“Tailings dams has been completely under resourced…. People have taken them for granted.”
“put the spotlight on something we call ESG, environmental, social and governance”
“There’s been a lot of pressure put on mining company boards to do ESG better”
Some dam walls have been created out of the tailings! And as the mines get bigger, the dams get bigger and are built upon unstable foundations.
It’s difficult to find competent tailings dams designers
Getting Civil engineers to build tailings dams is not a solution. “civil engineers are really good at dams, but they don’t understand mining”
You need to have a good understanding of mining (and the waste) to do tailings dams well.
During this podcast, you will also reflect on:
Women were illegal to work in underground mines until the 1980’s.
“I wasn’t allowed to because in 1986 women were illegal in underground mines Australia wide”
Most sites were very accepting, but for six months Alex did struggle
“they just had never had a female mining engineer before”
“the future is very clearly going to be autonomous mines”
Advice for future engineers
“get yourself ready for the future”
“there’s gonna be a need for a lot of team work where you’re cross-disciplinary and a lot of emotional intelligence and self-awareness“
An engineering item for discussion…Tesla’s “I love them because he has gone back to first principles and he’s redesigned the car from the ground up”
An engineer to admire… Elon Musk. Alex finds him inspiring “I also believe he’s got autism”
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