Higher ground: how three Victorian women are making their mark in the resources sector

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re giving a shout-out to three women who are ground-breaking…. in every sense of the word.

All three have landed a 2021 Women on Boards Scholarship. Supported by the Victorian Government and the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM), the scholarship is now in its second year and is designed to encourage more women into boardroom positions in the resources sector.

As part of the scholarship, the awardees will complete a new online Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) course and be profiled through AusIMM events and publications as potential board candidates.

Let’s meet the scholarship winners:

Nerilee Rockman

Vice President, AngloGold Ashanti

Nerilee RockmanStarting out as a solicitor for law firm Mallesons, Nerilee began her foray into the resources industry as a Legal Counsel with Mobil and Western Mining Corporation.

For the past 22 years, she has been with AngloGold Ashanti Australia – a gold mining company with operations in Western Australia – most recently as Vice President overseeing legal, environment and supply chain areas.

So, why mining and what’s the allure?

“It’s genuinely exciting, and it contributes so significantly to the economic health of our country,” she says. “Together, mining and the mining equipment, technology and services sector account for approximately 15% of Australia’s gross domestic product and support (directly and indirectly) 1.1 million jobs – around 10% of Australia’s total workforce. Australia currently has over 106 mining projects that have completed feasibility studies. The combined $50 billion investment flowing from these projects could create over 32,000 construction jobs and 22,000 ongoing operating jobs across the country.”

Nerilee’s looking forward to using the scholarship to glean insights into board practice and governance.

“I’m very grateful to AusIMM and the Victorian Government for making such a scholarship available and deepening the pool of board-ready women, both in the mining sector and more generally; this is very important if we’re to achieve gender diversity in our leaders,“ she says.

Her takeaway for women looking to break into the sector? “Engage with the industry and meet women at every level within it. Organisations such as AusIMM WIMnet are very helpful for this purpose, and can facilitate connections and introductions.”

Amy Lamb

Head of Processing, MMG Limited

Amy LambAn internship at a platinum mine in South Africa was an eye-opening experience for Amy.

That was the lightbulb moment when she realised her chemical engineering degree and love of maths and science were absolutely perfect for a career in mineral processing.

She now works at MMG, which develops copper, zinc and other base metal projects in Australia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Peru. Headquartered in Melbourne, the business is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Right now, there’s heaps of innovation happening in mining, she says. “The world’s demand for metals will not decline. Combining this with the demand for greener, cleaner processes, there’s a need for innovative processing techniques to meet our sustainability goals. I think diverse perspectives can play a big part in helping the industry meet those needs; therefore, encouraging women to consider the resource industry will be key to our success.

“Opportunity for skill development early in women’s careers has historically been lower than for men but programs like the Women on Boards scholarship are trying to close this gap.“

Laura Spelbrink

Senior Geoscientist and Project Manager

Laura SpelbrinkAlthough she was mad for science as a kid and has always adored exploring the great outdoors, it wasn’t until she went to Melbourne University - studying a double degree in Geology and Political Science and Public Policy and Master of Science in Earth Sciences - that Laura “discovered” geology. And that was that: she has loved the discipline ever since.

“For me, it was an opportunity to think big picture, to understand the history of the planet and the processes that have shaped the earth that we see today," she says.

After completing a Master of Science in geological mapping in East Timor, Laura was accepted into a graduate program with a Melbourne-based mid-tier mining company. Ten years on, she has become proficient in exploring for base metals across remote Australia.

“Encouraging women into the sector starts with visibility and particularly with women in industry being given platforms to share their stories and experiences,” she says. “It’s great to see so many initiatives that encourage girls and young women to pursue STEM and resources pathways.”

Programs such as the Women on Boards scholarship are vital for amplifying that message, she adds. “Diverse leadership is what’s required to enable the resources industry to innovate and adapt. I’m excited to be part of this evolution and to contribute to building a cleaner, safer and smarter industry.”

The Women in Mining survey is now open to women working in resources: Women in mining survey.