All in the family
From trainee truck operator to shift boss and training manager, Arlene Johnston parlayed her love of mining into a career underground at QME Ltd, distinguishing her as the first female miner in Ireland. She took time to share with Solid Ground online the challenges and opportunities she faces on a daily basis.
WHAT IS QME’s CORE BUSINESS?
QME Mining is a family-run business with nearly 40 years’ experience and has become a world leader in the area of supplying services, products and expertise globally to the mining and quarrying industry. We are the largest mining contractor in Ireland, and in recent years we have extended onto a global platform. We create innovative mining solutions for all aspects of mining and provide a full range of services, which include providing surface and underground mining equipment, labour, materials, information and planning.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY AT YOUR JOB ENTAIL?
My main duties are to collaborate with senior management to design new and innovative training programmes so as to ensure our people not only become exceptional in their field but have a career pathway so they can progress through the company. A typical day for me is to travel underground to carry out task observations with mining and other personnel, as direct contact with the miners enables me to improve training techniques and apply them through practical training sessions.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED IN MINING?
I come from a family who have been engaged in construction work and have been in business for more than 35 years. I started out operating mobile plant and equipment in the construction industry at a young age, working alongside my father and gaining knowledge in the planning pricing and project management of jobs. In 2009 I took a career break and headed overseas to Australia, where I worked in the mining industry. It was while working in Australia that I found my love for mining. In 2012 I returned to Ireland and have been with QME Mining ever since. I joined their contract mining sector, and with their support and my excitement I became the first female miner in Ireland. Fast forward to 2020, I have completed the full mining cycle from trainee truck operator to shift boss and trainer. Recently I’ve been given the opportunity to head up the QME Mining training department. This role has brought many new challenges and exciting opportunities.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACE AT YOUR JOB?
To achieve the kind of expansion in production that was required, we faced challenges to find modern mining equipment that would keep up with the demand. In the area of hard rock mining this is where we felt Sandvik would really deliver the most technically advanced equipment to produce the efficiency and productivity that we needed.
Home: From a small village in Dromintee, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Title: Training manager
Family: Youngest of five, with three brothers and one sister
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SANDVIK?
Sandvik has been much more than our conventional supplier. They are incredibly reliable with great communication skills, and due to our demand they are quick to supply us with trucks, loaders, drill rigs and rock bolters. Once supplied they didn’t stop there. Their service crew provided us with any necessary technical and on-the-job training when and where necessary.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
There are so many aspects to the job that I love, but one that sticks out is training miners on the Sandvik DS411-C rock bolter. Its uncomplicated use and edge mean high productivity for our company. It’s clean and comfortable and has advanced mapping features, which speeds up bolt installation and takes pressure off our operators.