Real Life

New Zealand's first female mining inspector

Priscilla Page (37) is New Zealand's first female mining inspector.

By Aroha Awarau
"I’ve struck gold in the career that I’ve chosen because I work in the mining industry! I was 18 when I entered this world and it’s been my passion and livelihood ever since. I’m currently a specialist mine inspector for WorkSafe New Zealand.
"While I live in Hamilton, I travel all around the country identifying principal hazards and ensuring the safety of all mines, including coal and gold mines, quarries and tunnels. I started this role in September last year and I was honoured to be the very first woman in New Zealand to be given this position.
"I grew up in South Africa and was always interested in science at school. In South Africa, if you can’t afford to go to university, you either have to take out a bank loan to pay for it or win a scholarship. I didn’t come from a wealthy family, so I applied for and won a full scholarship from a coal mining company, which paid for my studies in engineering and geology. I had to work in the mines each Christmas holiday and, when I finished my studies, I was bound to the company for four years.
Priscilla travels all around New Zealand inspecting mines and ensuring that those who work in them are kept safe at all times.
"My first job was working at an underground coal mining company based in north-west South Africa. My job was to go underground and map out the mine. I was also involved in grade control, which means making sure the coal quality is of a certain specification and is good enough to sell. The first time I journeyed underground, I was so excited. When you’re deep beneath the earth, the rocks are warm, and it was a thrill to experience that for the first time.
"The mine itself was very remote, and there was a village nearby made up entirely from the workers and their families. It was a close-knit group and there was real community spirit. It was there that I met and fell in love with my husband Arthur (47), a fellow miner. We married in 2003 and moved to New Zealand four years later, during the mining boom. The industry was looking for skilled people in mining roles and I was head-hunted by a recruitment agency.
"I moved here with Arthur and his son Alex (18) to become a geologist for Solid Energy. I later moved on to Australia for work, but I missed New Zealand and jumped at the opportunity to return.
"My current job is extremely busy. Sometimes I’ll visit five sites located all around New Zealand in one week. I’m one of the few women who work in the mines.
"It’s hard at first but you just have to be yourself and not be intimidated. I don’t pretend to be a man and I still hold on to my femininity. I’m noticing that more women are entering this field, not only in the technical side of things but also as mine operators. It’s nice to know that I may have contributed to paving the way for more women to enter this industry.
After three years in New Zealand, Arthur and Priscilla moved across the Tasman for a short period.
"Many people assume that working in mines is dangerous. It does have certain hazards, but as long as they are controlled effectively, it isn’t risky. My family are confident that my work is safe and never worry about me when I’m working. Because I work in a scientific field, outside of work I love to be involved with many creative endeavours. I’m a science fiction and fantasy geek, and write short stories. My husband and I love watching sports, although as South Africans, we feel conflicted whenever a New Zealand side plays a team from our homeland!
"Arthur is still involved with the mines, but in industry training. My stepson is currently at university and wants to be a science teacher, although he has no interest in mining. It’s great that my husband and I are in the same industry because we can talk the same language. We complement each other perfectly.”
As told to Aroha Awarau

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