Meet our alumni: an interview with Verity Fitch
The next step 4th January 2021
We caught up with Verity Fitch, Exploration Geologist for De Grey Mining, to find out more about her student experience at UoM Earth and Environmental Sciences as well as striking gold with graduate job opportunities.
What A levels did you study?
At college I completed A levels in Geology, Chemistry and Dance. I was fortunate to attend a college that offered Geology as an A level subject, as it is not commonly taught at this level. Therefore, it is not a prerequisite A level to have when applying for Geology at university. I found that the mix of geology and chemistry complemented each other, as chemistry helped improve my geological understanding of the chemical characteristics of rocks and other geological processes. Dance allowed me to have a creative release and keep me physically fit.
Which degree programme(s) did you study at Manchester, and at what level?
Whilst at the University of Manchester I undertook the 3- year BSc Geology course. After taking a year out from studying, I went on to complete the MSc in Mining Geology at the Camborne School of Mines, which is part of the University of Exeter.
How was your time at the University of Manchester?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of Manchester both during my studies and society involvements. I was heavily involved in the Department’s society GEMS (Geology and Environment for Manchester Students). In my third year I was Chair of the society and organised several social events throughout the year, including the GEMS Ball. Also, I created the first GEMS netball team, which was set up for females within the department. I feel very lucky to have lived in such a vibrant city as Manchester, which boasts such a variety of cultures, infamous music venues and a rich history.
What is your current job title?
My current job title is ‘Exploration Geologist’, working for De Grey Mining. They are a junior exploration company, who have recently discovered a significant gold deposit within the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
How did your studies prepare you for your current role as an Exploration Geologist? Is this a career you had intended to pursue for a long time, or is it something you discovered whilst studying?
My time at university has prepared me in several ways for my current job. Firstly, the amount of fieldwork included in the course has been invaluable to becoming an exploration geologist. I was exposed to a wide range of geological settings, in varying climates, over the 3 years of study. My most important field trip was a six week independent mapping project covering 18km2, in a remote region of the Pyrenees, Spain. Here, I mapped Upper Cretaceous thrust sheets which had disrupted a sedimentary sequence. This field trip really improved my skills on how to successively describe rock types, create cross-sections and undertake structural mapping, all of which I still use today to carry out my job. Secondly, from both my academic and society involvements, I learnt how to communicate with a range of people from different backgrounds. This has been an essential skill for the mining industry, as I constantly engage with new people.
When I was at the University of Manchester, I chose a module in my second year that was focused around learning ore deposit geology and understanding what geological settings are key to finding certain commodities. It was during this module that I started to look into masters courses where I could develop my understanding of the mining industry.
What experience did you need to secure your job?
Unfortunately, I had no work experience when applying for jobs in Australia. Having my masters did help me, as I had an academic understanding of mining processes and ore deposit geology. However, I would recommend anyone thinking of following a similar career path to try and get a summer internship or voluntary work within the mining industry. The UK does still have some operating mines and exploration programs running, so there are opportunities available. I would also encourage current students to look for work experience overseas if possible.
How did you go about applying for jobs prior to/after graduation?
As I knew I wanted to move to Australia to start my career in the mining industry, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to apply for jobs until I had moved to the country. Therefore, I applied for my working holiday visa (417), which allowed me the right to work in Australia for 12 months. To be able to apply for my second working holiday visa, I needed to complete 6 months regional work. Fortunately, working in the mining industry is classed as regional work in Australia.
Initially, when I arrived in Western Australia, I struggled to find work because of the time of year – in the summer months (December/January) lots of exploration programs shut down due to the extreme heat. After some perseverance, I found a contract job with SRK Consulting, after reaching out to a principal Geologist via LinkedIn. I would recommend anyone thinking about a career in the mining industry to utilise LinkedIn, as it can connect you with people working in a range of commodities all over the world.
What is a typical day in the life of an Exploration Geologist?
My typical day starts with waking up and getting ready for the morning meeting at 5.45am. Here, we have a debrief about who is assigned to what activities for the day and a chance to report any hazards or incidents. I then prepare my work vehicle to ensure I have all the correct equipment and supplies I’ll need whilst working out in the field. I have been working as a geologist on either a reverse circulation (RC) rig or an air core (AC) rig. It is my responsibility to log the geology of the rock samples and to check the sampling process is being carried out correctly, including any QAQC (quality assurance and quality control). I also have to make sure everyone on the rig is correctly carrying out health and safety procedures. When I get back from the field I have to report to my Senior Geologist. I have to complete any data input, complete cross sections and write daily/weekly reports. I currently work a roster of 2 weeks on and 1 week off, and my days are 12 hours long, working in extreme heat.
Do you travel widely as part of your work?
As I am still early on in my career I have only worked in Western Australia. However, I am aware of the potential for extensive travel as mining is a global industry. I hope to get a chance to work in either Africa or South America in the future.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to work my way up to being a Project Geologist, being responsible for managing a team of geologists and having an input on where drilling should be carried out. I also hope to be able to get more involved with engaging with female students who are thinking of going into mining. I want them to know that it is very much an industry for women as well.
air core rigchemistrycross-sectionsfieldworkGEMSGeologygold deposithealth and safetyindependent mappinginternshipmining geologyore depositquality assurancereverse circulation rigrock samplessedimentary processesstructural mappingthrust sheetsupper cretaceousvoluntary work