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Women in mining: the first female dragline trainee operator

World Coal,

Marianne Finch may only be a rookie at the controls of Dragline 13 but as Saraji’s first female Dragline Trainee, she has a strong message for her female colleagues in the mining industry: “Don’t take no for an answer”.

Employed within the mining industry for almost 10 years, Finch commenced her career driving trucks at BMA Peak Downs Mine in 2005.

However, it wasn’t long before she began looking for the next challenge and, through sheer persistence, quickly found herself behind the wheel of the dozer – making strides in the progress for women, since the vast majority of dozer operators had been men.

Making such an impact in the mining sector is no small feat in an industry often cited as being “characterized by a masculinity”. As Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt notes in The Magaproject of Mining: “The masculinity [of mining] is interpreted as “natural”, to normalize and legitimize the mechanism of power, a process described as the “discursive invisibility of men and masculinity”.

Lahiri-Dutt adds that it is often the case that mining projects do not see an “overt visibility of men, but a taken for granted conflation of men, with institutionalized authority, expertise and prestige, institutions, laws and structures of governance that favour these entrenched hierarchies, and technologies that pose to be gender neutral”.

Finch, however, remained undaunted by the challenges she faced. After conquering the dozer, it was onto the digger, before finally a move to the BMA Saraji Mine in 2012, which created an opportunity for her to begin a Dragline Traineeship.

Finch said being a Dragline Operator was the best role on site.

“The role is challenging and pushes you out of your comfort zone every day,” she said.

She believes the key to succeeding in both the role, and the industry as a whole, is through developing trust within a crew.

“When accepting this opportunity I did question whether I had done the right thing. However, through the support of my team and friendships on site, I was able to push through those thoughts and I’m now confident I’ve made the right decision. I’ve also enjoyed the challenge every day since,” she said.

Finch’s crew supervisor, Rob Jacobsen, said she had the right attitude to build a strong career for herself.

“She is a keen learner and not afraid to try anything new,” he said.

Dragline trainer and assessor, Lyndon Bayles, echoed Rob’s thoughts. “With more practical training, it won’t be long until we pass Marianne out as a “smooth operator” here on site - a title every Dragline Operator strives to achieve,” he said.

Finch has some wise words of advice for women who might be considering pursuing a career as an operator in the mining industry.

“Continue to push the norm and don’t take second prize. But above all, be sure you want the role, be sure you will stick at it and when given the opportunity – don’t quit. Persist at it and prove to those higher than you why you not only deserve that role, but also any future opportunities that may come along” she said.

On her rostered off days, Finch resides in Emerald with family. She is also a keen Polocross competitor – a sport that sees her travel across the region.

The Saraji coal mine, near Dysart in central Queensland, has total coal reserves amounting to 648 million t of metallurgical coal. With a production capacity of 5 million tpa, the opencast mine has 11 coal seams and is one of the largest coal reserves in Asia and indeed, the world. 

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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