Nicole Brisson profile picture

Nicole Brisson

 

Job title and employer:

Water and Tailings Engineer, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited

 

What does your job title mean?

I work at a gold mine in Nunavut on 2-week on 2-week off rotation. In the summer, my role is to manage the water flow around site and prevent the mine water (dirty water) from entering the freshwater lakes and streams. In the winter, I manage the movement and safe deposition of the tailings (mine waste).


Background information:

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Edmonton, AB and lived there until I finished high school.

Where do you live now?

I rotate between Vancouver, BC and Nunavut.

Where did you complete your training or education?

I have a Bachelors degree in Geological/Geophysical Engineering from Queen’s University, Kingston, ON

 


What you do at work?

I work at an active gold mine site in Nunavut. This means that for 2 weeks at a time, I live and work at the mine. I get to take the truck on site at least once a day (even in -60 degrees weather in the winter!) to complete inspections, check on progress and to take notes and pictures. In the summer, my role is to manage the water flow around site and prevent the mine water (dirty water) from entering the freshwater lakes and streams. In the winter, I manage the movement and safe deposition of the tailings (mine waste).

I work very closely with the geotechnical engineering team and the mine operations team. Communication is very important in my job. I always need to know what’s going on at the mine site in order to update designs and trouble-shoot problems. Since the mine is very remote and the winter is very cold, there are always new challenges that my team has to solve. There are also many environmental regulations that we need to follow. Agnico Eagle Mines is committed to being a good neighbor and employs many local Inuit people. As a result, we take environmental sustainability very seriously. During the caribou migration, which is about 1-2 months in the summer, all heavy equipment traffic stops on the road connecting the open pit (where the rock is mined) to the crusher (where the rock is crushed  and separated into gold and waste rock).

I use many different software modelling programs in my work. I use these programs to optimize my designs, make forecasts and verify if my designs will be safe to implement. These programs require me to have knowledge of geology, math, and rock mechanics. I also have to understand mine operations, construction schedules and how the different pieces of equipment function. An important part of my job is knowing how heavy equipment and tools work. There is no point designing something complex if you can’t build it!

I work in English, but many people at site speak French (Agnico Eagle hires a lot of people from Quebec) or Inuktitut. I have picked up a few phrases in Inuktitut but it is a complex language.


How does what you do affect people’s lives?

It is really rewarding and special to work and live with the local Inuit people! They always have many stories to tell and I learn new things about the area every day.

Gold mining companies are a major source of income and economic growth. They also have an important role in supporting sustainable socio-economic development. Agnico Eagle provides jobs and incomes for many local Inuit people, and directly invests money back into the communities. I am proud to be part of that process through the work I do.

 


What motivates you in your career?

I get excited when I can see the work that my team has done being put into action. Working at an active mine site gives me the opportunity to see this, every day. I’ve always enjoyed field work – it’s very important to have hands-on experience in order to understand what works and what doesn’t work. Also, you get to have fun with your coworkers outside of work time because you are often living with them as well! I really appreciate working with great coworkers who can make me laugh even when the work gets stressful.

I am also an introvert, so working with outgoing, enthusiastic and friendly people helps to get me ‘out of my bubble’ and connect with others. Fortunately, I have many chances at site to build these types of relationships with my coworkers. This helps make the 12-hour days go by fast!

 


How did you get to where you are today?

When I was in high school, I loved history, science and math. But I also loved getting outside and spent many summers hiking with my family in the Rockies. I didn’t want a typical engineering “office” job. I completed a degree in geological engineering.  This is a great fit for me because it combines both history and science, and often leads to careers that involve field work. I did a 16-month internship between 3rd and 4th year of university in oil and gas. While it was great experience, it wasn’t what I wanted for my career. In high school I had many great teachers who encouraged me to apply for engineering since I enjoy academic challenges and am very motivated to do my best. Throughout university and my early career, I have always sought out mentors who have encouraged me to be goal-oriented and exceed my expectations for myself. Even though there aren’t many women in the mining industry, I have been lucky to work with many great coworkers and have never felt like I was treated differently because I am female. Having a good attitude and being keen to learn are the most important qualities to have at work. This is true no matter your age, gender or cultural background.

 


What activities do you enjoy outside of work?

I enjoy doing sports outside: running, biking, hiking, camping, cross country skiing, kayaking, and more recently – climbing. To relax, I read books. I volunteer for Women in Engineering and Geoscience, which is a division of EGBC – the governing body for engineers and geoscientists in BC. I am also a youth mentor for UNYA – the urban native youth association. This is a fantastic program run out of East Vancouver that connects young native teenagers with mentors. I do really fun things with my youth, like go-karting, laser tag, movies and going for ice cream.

 


What advice would you give to a young person interested in a similar career?

Don’t close any doors – take on as many opportunities as you can and talk to others. You never know where you’ll end up and what you’ll end up enjoying. Find people who you admire and ask them about their jobs and lives! Don’t let others tell you what you can and can’t do. With hard work and focus, anyone can learn and excel at anything.

 


As a female professional, how can you influence the advancement of women in engineering and technology?

I volunteer for Women in Engineering and Geoscience – we advocate for women in engineering and geology, and plan events to connect and promote females in the industry. I often promote and recognize my female colleagues’ achievements. I can encourage girls to pursue a career in STEM by sharing my journey with them. I love mentoring and showing young people what they are capable of accomplishing.

 


 

When I was in high school, I enjoyed…

Geography

History

Literature and English language arts

Math

Music

Science

 

When I was in high school, I was someone who…

Enjoyed doing things on my own

Always wanted to be outside

Liked helping people

Was motivated by success

Engaged in volunteer activities

Liked reading

Felt at home in the outside, natural environment

Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades

Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do


 

ASTTBC thanks Let’s Talk Science for their partnership in developing this career profile.  Let’s Talk Science – a leading partner in Canadian education – is a national charitable organization committed to inspiring and empowering Canadian youth to develop the skills they need to participate and thrive in an ever-changing world. To accomplish this, Let’s Talk Science offers a comprehensive suite of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) based programs to support youth, educators, and volunteers across Canada. For more information about Let’s Talk Science, visit letstalkscience.ca.

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