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Meet Beatrice Pierre - one of this year's Top 100 Women in Mining

Author: Glencore | Date: 15/11/2018

Earlier this month, we sat down with Beatrice Pierre, the General Manager of our Altonorte smelter in Chile, and one of 2018’s Top 100 Women in Mining. In our conversation, Beatrice discussed her career in mining, the need to increase diversity across the industry, and what the future holds for Altonorte under her leadership.

Glencore: You’ve worked in mining for 15 years. How did you choose this career?

Beatrice: I think mining chose me! I was born and raised in Haiti, where mining was not something I grew up with and when I moved to Ottawa, Canada, mining still wasn’t familiar to me. I chose chemical engineering as a degree because I really like to solve problems and to understand how things work. 
I really liked the fact that Glencore was offering what was called the Engineering in Training Program. It was for two years, and you would get to travel, see different aspects of mining and the business more generally. I thought, what a great way to teach a young engineer different aspects – it was flexible, it seemed creative, it seemed like you would get some good mentoring. 15 years later I have to say I loved every aspect of it. It was a great experience. 

Glencore: And you’ve just been named one of Women in Mining’s “Top 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining”. How did you feel when you heard the news?
Beatrice: As you’re talking, I’m smiling from ear to ear. Being nominated and then making the final 100 really touched me. 

I was just grateful for having had all these opportunities and being given the courage to take them. It feels unbelievable to think that this is what my life is today. I look at my mother, who didn’t have these opportunities when she was growing up. She never went to university and she barely finished high school, and when I think about what she’s been able to give me, it’s unbelievable. I feel this enormous sense of accomplishment, but not only for me – I feel it for my family.

Throughout my career, only once did I have a direct boss who was a woman. I think to get this prize just gives me this great sense of pride. I never do something thinking I’m going to be able to be an example for others, I do it thinking “why not, let’s see how it goes!” But I hope that being recognised like this means that other people will see what’s possible and will also be inspired to follow their own path and realise their potential. 

I hope that being recognised like this means that other people will see what’s possible and will also be inspired to follow their own path and realise their potential. 

Beatrice Pierre, GM, Altonorte smelter

Glencore: How do you think the industry has changed since you first started?

Beatrice: I find that today, when I look at mining, I have an electrical engineer who is my finance manager and I have seen a public administration and communications major who is my HR manager. Within my career I’ve seen that it is now not about what you know, but about how you use your mind and how you use your knowledge, it’s how you interact with people. The biggest transition is investing in the type of people you want – investing in their potential. We want people who are adaptable, who are creative, who want to learn, who are problem-solvers.

Glencore: And in terms of diversity, although we talk a lot about ‘women in mining’ do you see a shift to a broader conversation about diversity in general?

Beatrice: Absolutely – I think it needs to be a broader discussion. Obviously as a woman I understand that there have been some challenges for women especially between the stresses and demands of mining and raising families and doing other things, and I think there’s been a great push and we’re making some progress. But, we have much more to do to encourage not just women, but people of colour, gay and lesbian people, as well as people from different socio-economic backgrounds. It’s about letting the world know that our doors are open – we want the best people, no matter who they are.

It’s about letting the world know that our doors are open – we want the best people, no matter who they are.

Beatrice Pierre, GM, Altonorte smelter

Glencore: And so what does this mean when you are hiring people at Altonorte?

Beatrice: We look for people who are well traveled as traveling opens the world. We look for adaptability, because once you’re adaptable, you can apply this approach when they engage with different types of people. We look for flexibility in thinking. Some people are very rigid, with the attitude “this is the way I was raised, I’m not going to change my ways”, so we are looking for profiles that allow us to expand minds, for people who have lived somewhere else, or seen other types of people living in different ways. 

Glencore: Tell us about the work you’re doing at Altonorte.

Beatrice: Altonorte is very strategically positioned. Chile obviously has access to the coast from almost everywhere, so we have ports of entry that allow easy entry and export of products. 

There have been some records broken in terms of production. In 2017 we broke a production record for Altonorte, more than 1 million tonnes of concentrate processed. We have taken a smelter that started as a family-owned business to where it is now, part of a large multinational with structure – it’s such a great story. Really, the biggest transformation I’ve seen at Altonorte is our cultural change. It is good to see people believe in their own potential. I think in the three years I’ve been at Altonorte that is something that I haven’t seen change so drastically anywhere else. 

Glencore: What sort of differences are you seeing operationally?

Beatrice: We see a big improvement in production, but there are also the softer signals. You walk through the plant and you see people who are proud through actions, in terms of cleanliness. It´s things like when you used to walk around and there would be rubbish left around, like empty water bottles. Obviously, we can’t count exactly how many fewer empty water bottles there are now, but you see that there is a pride in having a clean workplace – people have pride in what they do and there’s a real team-spirit.

Glencore: And as you look forward to 2019, what are your other priorities?

Beatrice: The first one for us is our safety record. It’s been a challenging year so far, but shutdown years are always more challenging because you bring so many new people to your plant and within a month you need to show them exactly what we do at Altonorte. We also have some very important capital projects that are underway, so we want to demonstrate that we can finish these projects on budget and on schedule. 

The first of these is a new baghouse to improve our capture of arsenic. The baghouse will clean up our emissions, ensuring that the air our employees and the local communities breathe is as clean as it should and can be. We also have another project where we’re converting a smelter to natural gas, which has a cost reduction to it, but it will also help us reduce CO₂ emissions. Lastly, as a result of our Thickened Tailings Disposal project we’re looking to reduce the volume of water we use in our slag plants. When you’re operating in the middle of the driest desert in the world, water is a commodity that we want to use well and responsibly.

2018’s Top 100 Women in Mining

As well as Beatrice, Glencore is proud to announce that three other women from across the Group made it into this year’s Top 100 Women in Mining. They are:

  • Alexandra Pascal Thibout - General Counsel and Company Secretary - DRC
  • Hannah Bester - Group Logistics Manager - DRC
  • Nicole Brook - General Manager, Business Development and Technical Services - Coal Assets, Australia