Exploration (Base Metals)
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Name: Esme Tristram

Job Title: Exploration geologist (Base metals)

What are your qualifications?

BSc Geology
MSc Mineral Projects Appraisal

What exactly does an exploration geologist do?

The work of an exploration geologist is very varied from geological mapping in the middle of nowhere, manning a drilling rig to number crunching in the office. I am currently working on an underground exploration tunnel. This has to be mapped and sampled during construction. We also have to work closely with the geologists involved in the construction of the tunnel to predict future rock conditions. A large part of my work is involved in safety from daily meetings to constantly trying to improve any sub-standard conditions in the areas of work.

Apart from formal qualifications, what other skills or characteristics do you need?

Since the work is diverse the job requires quite a flexible skill set. Geological mapping, logging and interpretations skills are very important but these will certainly improve with experience. It is essential to be able to get on with people in a team and be flexible with local customs without giving up your own or the companies’ principles. Being able to present your work in a professional manner is also a must. I personally think that for exploration geology the most important skill is the ability to think outside of the box and solve problems encountered, which do not usually have straight forward answers.

What sort of organisation do you work for? Who else employs geologists?

All the major and junior mining companies who are involved in exploration. Some exploration geologists do go on to work for consultancy firms.

If this wasn’t your first job after your studies, what did you do in between?

This was my first job after leaving university.

Do you travel within the UK or overseas very much?

I live in Chile and travel back home to the UK about every year and a half, although other expat geologists usually go home at least once a year.

Do you work a regular length day/week or are shifts involved?

I work a regular Monday to Friday week as I live close to the places we are exploring. This is rather unusual for exploration geologists who usually work some days on in the field and some days off.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy its diversity and meeting the local people who live in the isolated places where we conduct our exploration. It is very hard to get bored in exploration geology as there is always some new idea or project over the horizon.

What advice or extra information do you wish you’d had before starting this career?

Toughen up! The mining industry is a fun but hard place to work. It can also be challenging being a woman in what was traditionally a male dominated environment. Exploration can test people’s limits, as to be able to find new potential mines we need to go where few have been before. This therefore means we are constantly visiting places that are hard to get to, hard to communicate with and hard to get supplies to. Modern technology and transport systems make the job easier but being stuck in a freezing tent or not being able to get to where you need to study can challenge even the hardiest of us.

What position would you like to hold in five years' time?

I would like to go more in project appraisal work as this provides a slightly more stable place of work in the longer run. However this will still give me the opportunity for field visits and keep the work interesting.

Background: Geological map of the Grand Canyon, USA. Credit: Brewbooks, Flickr