1 – Globe 24-7: In October 2016 BHP Billiton set out to obtain a gender balance at all organizational levels by 2025- At that time they were at a 16% women’s participation ratio and that percentage has been growing significantly since then. What are you currently doing at Lundin Gold – Fruta del Norte – regarding Diversity and Inclusion programs? Do you have a plan in place?
Iliana Rodriguez: Lundin Gold is part of the Lundin Group of Companies and owns a single mining project in Ecuador: Fruta del Norte (FDN). The reality of the mining sector in this country differs from that in countries with a mining tradition since in Ecuador this is a brand-new industry with particular challenges. As a Company, we work on several initiatives to address them.
Specifically, we encourage diversity and inclusion and, therefore, women’s participation from our highest organizational levels. We have a significant percentage of women, many of whom hold managerial positions. Currently, our Board of Directors has a 30% female participation.
We maintain a similar focus on our education and training strategies. Therefore, in the Mining Operation Training Program (PCOM), an initiative implemented during 2018 and 2019, we incorporated 48 women, including women belonging to Shuar nationality, who account for almost 16% of the total graduates. During the hiring process, we were explicit in inviting both men and women who had the minimum profile required to apply. This attracted the attention of women who are now operating mining equipment or serving as process plant operators.
From the selection process, the person who gets the job is the one with the necessary skills regardless of gender. We also ensure bias-free compensation management and adequate facilities for the well-being of our people.
For example, in January of this year, we implemented a milk extraction room in FDN and a lactation room in our community office located in Los Encuentros Parish. This is not an isolated initiative, but it is part of a program led by Human Resources through its Social Work and area with the support of the Medical Department. These teams implement training processes aimed at mothers as well as the rest of personnel, to raise breastfeeding awareness, importance of female care and to encourage women to provide support to one another.
Finally, it is important to note that, as part of our fundamental principle of Respect, in 2018 we implemented a Code of Conduct that observes gender equality. In addition, our policies promote diverse workspaces free from practices related to discrimination and harassment. On the other hand, as an active member of the United Nations Global Pact, we remain committed to contributing to the 2030 agenda and particularly with SDS5 (Gender Equality) through our participation in the working table that has been formed for this effect at the local level.
2 – Globe 24-7: As a female industry leader, what would you say to all female colleagues wanting to find a job within the industry or wanting to further develop their mining careers?
Iliana Rodriguez: I believe that this is an industry with great potential and opportunities for growth and development that is well on track and with proven intent of being an inclusive sector.
If mining results attractive to them, I would tell them to expand their network of contacts in the industry, to stay informed, to listen to the success stories and imagine themselves being part of them.
From my own experience, I can tell you that being part of the mining industry is challenging and fascinating and I consider the future for women in this industry to be bright.
3 – Globe 24-7: Within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, they have established Gender Equality which shows that there is still evidence of outstanding work related to this issue and points to the adoption of certain public policies to achieve the commitment. Is the Ecuadorian Government working on this to achieve the articulation of all possible stakeholders?
Iliana Rodriguez: Diversity and gender inclusion are becoming increasingly important in the country, and large-scale mining industry is not the exception. Since 2019 I have been Vice President of WIM Ecuador, the newly-formed local chapter of International Women in Mining, which aims to generate and support initiatives to maintain and promote women’s participation in the mining industry as well as the possibility to belong to a professional network and access training and learning opportunities.
This organization was approved and supported by the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources (MERNNR). Last Thursday, February 27th, the first event was held with partners and we had the honour of having the presence of Vice Minister Enrique Gallegos-Anda, who stressed the need to promote equal opportunity in the access to employment and the establishment of appropriate labour conditions for women in the Ecuadorian mining sector.
4 – Globe 24-7: If we look at the overall data in the industry, the numbers of women on site are much lower than at the corporate level in all regions worldwide. In your opinion, what can be done at the mining site level to attract, retain and promote women in mining? Are there any common obstacles or barriers to success at this point that you have experienced?
Iliana Rodriguez: I have had the opportunity to work in both mining and oil companies, in Africa and the Middle East, and have visited several mines in the Americas. When I did it in rotating shifts, it was sometimes difficult for me to stay away from my family and my daughters’ day-to-day life. However, I was surrounded by my co-workers, who became a family away from home and with whom I stay in contact to this date. We were all in the same condition and shared moments of great camaraderie.
As a woman, I think it is important to fade myths, remove barriers, and consider yourself capable of taking on these challenges. It is enriching to listen, share and learn from the experiences of those who have developed a career in this industry and have accumulated experiences. The Companies, on the other hand, are called to maintain open communication channels and be attentive to the needs of their staff, as well as to replicate and implement best practices that have yielded important results in the industry.
At Lundin Gold, we are on this path. At Fruta del Norte, we have worked to ensure that our female staff have conditions, facilities, uniforms, and supplies specifically designed for them. Our Mining Operation Training Program (PCOM) encouraged women’s participation in the mining industry, which is novel for the area of influence where our Company operates and currently we can already say we have several great stories to share. This group of women has not only been successful in the operation of heavy equipment at the Mine and executing Process Plant activities, but they did so with the highest scores, and to date have shown excellent performance.
5 – Globe 24-7: What is something companies can do to make a positive impact on gender equity within the mining industry?
Iliana Rodriguez: Companies must ensure that, from the outset, their processes are inclusive and adopt this philosophy as corporate responsibility, implementing the codes and policies necessary, so that it does not remain in words alone. They must be open to change, be ready to listen, understand, and take action in a timely manner. It is necessary to foster a visibly inclusive culture that comes from the highest organizational levels with example and conviction.