31 March 2023
2023 NSW Women in Mining Awards - Winners Announcement
Bianca Newcombe, owner and principal metallurgist of Orange-based business OptiFroth Solutions, has been named the Exceptional Woman in NSW Mining for 2023.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering in 1998, Bianca completed her PhD in Mineral Processing in 2014 before working on mine sites in production metallurgy for companies including Newcrest and Evolution Mining. Also in 2014 Bianca started her own mining support business, OptiFroth Solutions, which specialises in mineral process engineering utilising a ‘froth flotation’ system for separating metals like copper, zinc, silver, nickel and gold from mined material. Since starting OptiFroth, Bianca has been able to support mining operations in Australia, Asia, Africa, Canada and South America.
Since 2009, Bianca has also published over 20 papers in peer-reviewed journals and conferences in Australia and internationally, been on the Minerals Engineering peer review panel since 2015, and served on the Mill Operators Conference Committee since 2017.
NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee congratulated Bianca on being named Exceptional Woman in Mining 2023 and highlighted her achievements as another example of the world-class women in mining across the State.
“Bianca’s drive to apply her scientific expertise to the mining sector is an inspiration to young women exploring their career options, and illustrates the many opportunities that exist for women in our industry.”
Other award winners include Whitehaven Coal’s Hollie Sampson, who has been named 2023 NSW Exceptional Young Woman in Mining. A proud Gomeroi woman, Hollie grew up in the remote town of Quirindi in North West NSW. In 2020 Hollie commenced in her current role as Aboriginal Community Relations Officer with Whitehaven, where she has successfully built strong and positive relationships across all facets of the business, including with local communities, Whitehaven executives, and with external organisations.
Hollie has also led several key projects, helping establish the Maules Creek Indigenous Mentoring Program, and assisting in guiding Whitehaven’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) endorsement with Reconciliation Australia in 2021.
Joanne Henry from WesTrac received the 2023 Technological Innovation Award for the development and implementation of WesTrac’s autonomous drilling technology project.
The purpose of the project was to implement autonomous, multi-pass drilling technology within a production mining environment. The development of this technology led to several world-firsts for Caterpillar and the dealer in implementation of the technology for drilling. The technology has delivered a 20 percent improvement in drilling performance, enabling utilisation of the drills for more than 20 hours per day through fewer unscheduled stoppages due to weather, and reduced downtime for shift changeovers.
Lucy McClean from the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) was awarded the 2023 Inclusion & Diversity Champion Award for her work as Chair of WIMnet NSW, the key network to support, nurture, connect, recognise and empower women in the NSW resources sector. Lucy’s tenure as Chair has seen a 43 per cent increase in mentee/mentor participation as well as an increase in industry sponsorship. Lucy has also volunteered as a WIMnet NSW mentor since 2017.
The 2023 Outstanding Tradeswoman, Operator or Technician Award was awarded to Julie Smith from Evolution Mining. Julie has been a pioneer and role model for women seeking a career in mining.
In 2008, Julie joined Northparkes Mining in a truck driving role and in the following nine years operated trucks, rollers, water carts, dispatch, and in 2010 became a member of the Cowal Gold Operations Emergency Response Team (ERT). In 2018, Julie’s career progressed with an opportunity to get back into a grader and at the same time she was promoted to crew trainer. Julie earned a trainer assessor qualification from the State Emergency Service and is also a First Aid trainer for the organisation. Julie has also become a loader operator for three different size loaders. In 2022 Julie was elected as a Health Safety Representative (HSR), another qualification she gained through SES.
Stephen Galilee congratulated all of the winners and finalists.
“There are many incredible women in our NSW mining industry and these Awards celebrate their achievements in a range of fields,” Mr Galilee said.
“From technology and innovation to engineering and trades, as well as in operational roles and running businesses, our award winners highlight the opportunities for women in mining, and showcase the career paths available in our sector.
The winners in the five award categories will be entered into the Women in Resources National Awards.