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How a geological survey changed my life

Women in mining – Pamela Ellemers talks about her career as a geologist.

Pamela in the pit at Victor Mine

I first became interested in geology at university when I took a course in physical geography. This led to a summer job on the local government’s geological survey – an opportunity that changed my life.

I spent the summer in a remote camp in northern Canada and walked through the forests making geological maps of the rock outcrops. We slept in tents, bathed in the lake and eagerly waited for letters from home and supplies delivered by a float plane every two or three weeks. It was an amazing experience!

After that, I switched majors at school and, while completing my geography and geology degrees, I worked part-time as a geological assistant for De Beers. I spent five summers in the field exploring for kimberlites across Canada and, after graduating, became a field geologist with De Beers, based in the Yellowknife exploration office.

I feel privileged to have experienced many areas of the company, from geology field work in Canada to group exploration laboratories in Toronto, South Africa, Australia, Botswana and India, and from project management at DebTech in Johannesburg to geostatistics and mineral resource management in Canada.

This range of experience helped shape my career path and led to my current role as Lead, Mineral Resource and Revenue Estimation, for De Beers Canada.

I’ve been lucky to have a number of inspiring mentors during my career. Their investment in, and commitment, to my development have been invaluable. It also inspired me to ‘pay it forward’ by mentoring young colleagues and students. I recently spent some meaningful time with children from the Kashechewan and Attawapiskat First Nations as well as with local Toronto school children, teaching them about geology and diamonds.

Employee education and training is an important part of our culture at De Beers. The company invests in professional development, including formal training. Having benefited from this investment myself, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to give back by co-ordinating Canada’s Mine Professional in Training programme.

Recent geoscience and engineering graduates learn about our company during a three-year training programme, working across exploration, mining operations and projects. This is a rewarding and exciting experience – for De Beers, our trainees and for me.

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