Roberto Jiménez Vela
“Success does not fall from the sky. it is the consequence of well-planned and organised hard work”
Roberto Jiménez Vela
Country of Origin: Peru
Occupation: Senior Geology Consultant. State of Residency: WA. Favourite place in Australia: Perth. Upon arrival: Surprised by the Aussie accent. Event though I spoke good English, sometimes I couldn’t understand anything.
By Cristy Abela
Roberto is a polyglot Senior Geologist Consultant with over 20 years of experience working in underground mining and exploration on several mining projects in Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Argentina. He started an online community of geologists in order to exchange experiences on orebody modelling, minerology, geostatistics and operational issues related to exploration in South America. He enjoys sharing his experiences in the industry and providing advice and guidance to potential migrants and locals who want to get a job in the Australian mining industry.
TELL US YOUR STORY
After working for several Peruvian mining companies I landed a junior role at an Australian mining company which was exploring for gold and uranium in Peru. My good knowledge of the English language was an asset and my boss mentioned the possibility of getting sponsored by the company to work in Australia. Even though I liked the idea of being sponsored I decided to do it on my own terms and arrived to Australia for the first time in March 2009 as a permanent resident.
With only two suitcases and with no contacts in Australia, I first spent some time in Sydney before departing to Perth as it was a requirement of the visa to work for at least two years in Western Australia. It was not difficult to get a job as Geologists were in extreme demand. My first job was as ‘Greenfields exploration’ at a medium-size underground mine. The conditions of the work were “9/5 fly-in, fly-out” from Perth (meaning that you work nine days continuously and rest 5 days, arriving to the mine by airplane). At the beginning it looked as a very exciting and challenging opportunity, but over time the consequences of working in extreme conditions – living in tents, eating anything, no toilets, no showers, etc. – began to affect me severely psychologically and physically. Hard work was not the problem, as in Peru I had worked very hard at more than 4,000 meters above sea level, but the constant getting on and off an airplane was affecting me. The constant turbulences that the airplane had to pass through, made me think that the end of my life was near.
So, I quit my first job and got my second job in Kalgoorlie (‘Kal’), same commodity (gold-underground) but doing ‘Brownfields exploration’, this means exploration near a campsite or a near mine. The conditions of this work were much better - “ 5/2 drive-in, drive out” (meaning that you work 5 days continuously and rest two days) and it allowed me to achieve my main goal which was to work in exploration. In 2012, I started a degree at the Western Australian School of Mines (Curtin University) in order to get the necessary Australian qualification to work in exploration. I tried to work and study at the same time, but found it very hard. Therefore, in order to improve and enhance my career, I quit my job again and became a full-time student in Perth. After obtaining a Master’s Degree in Mining Geology and Mineral Exploration (in 2014), I began working in exploration for gold, base metals and iron. Going from one place to another in Western Australia and working in the outback in extreme conditions allowed me to know a new geological environment. Sometimes I had to walk dozens of kilometers and with temperatures of 45C. This was not something that bothered me; on the contrary, after having worked in the Andes Range at -20C, surrounded by snow and ice, this was like paradise.
The exploration adventure days are over and now I work for an international consultancy as a Senior Geology Consultant, leading small and medium-size mining projects (gold and base metals) located in Latin America. Recently, I started to work on several mining projects in Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Argentina.
Working in extreme conditions - Although hard work was not something strange to me, I had to walk dozens of kilometers every day, living and sleeping in a tent, fighting against insects and snakes and eating anything that was edible. My previous experience in exploration in the Andes Range helped me to overcome those problems.
Cultural diversity - When I was working in underground mining, I had workmates from many countries around the world and had to be very careful about what to say or do in order to not offend them. Latinos are very friendly and spontaneous, but it was not the case with people of certain nationalities, who preferred not to socialise or even not to talk.
Driving on the opposite side - In Australia the wheel is on the right; therefore, it was very difficult to me to get used to driving on the right side. When I tried to get my driver’s licence, I failed three times the driving test. I had to go to a small town to sit it there as examiners are usually not too strict.
Religiosity - In contrast to Latin America, Australians usually do not like to talk about their religious beliefs, because they think that matter is something very intimate, private and confidential. Many of them say that they are not believers but “spiritual”, this is, they believe in the existence of a supreme being but not as a god.
Open-minded and tolerance - Unlike Latin America societies, Australian society is based on mutual respect and a spirit of tolerance. Nobody wants to impose their beliefs on others and they respect the cultural background of people, even if they do not agree with that.
Political correctness - In comparison to politicians from Latin America, Australian politicians do politics in a different way. Lying and/or cheating the voters are not usual in them as these behaviours would end their political careers.
PIECE OF ADVICE
Be persistent but patient – Success does not fall from the sky. It is the consequence of well-planned and organised hard work. It is not a product of luck or chance, but it is necessary to be in the right place at the right time, because the opportunities are rarely repeated. Maybe you will not get everything, but the sense of satisfaction of having achieved something in difficult conditions, gives us the strength to undertake another challenge.
Plan thoroughly - Before starting anything, you should ask yourself: Am I prepared to do it? What do I need to do it? Are my goals achievable? Get advice from people who already live in Australia and do your best effort to achieve your dreams. Studying English in your own country is the first step to success, then think carefully about the advantages and disadvantages of moving to Australia.
Consider possibilities - Many times, things are not as we think or they had told us; therefore, as a consequence of that, the outcome would not be in accordance with our expectations; for example, when you try to get a job for the first time in Australia or try to change or get another visa to stay here. A positive “can do” attitude is essential and helps very much, but you should be realistic and consider several possibilities.
Roberto working in exploration
On core-yard duties
IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS…
Roberto would like to lead big mining projects in South America, Asia, Africa and of course Australia. He has been working on several small mining projects, but he believes that big things start as small ones. In the near future he would like to work on some non-metallic commodity such as clay or marble for example or even mineral sands. Travel wise, he would like to go to Antarctica or the North Pole. If you want to contact Roberto please emails us to firstname.lastname@example.org