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"We begin to appreciate what we have when we are cut off from it. I think that perhaps everyone should try to work on a watch for a change"

Anna Katsebina, a graduate of the Siberian Federal University with a degree in mineral processing, joined Mayskoye gold mining company (Polymetal Group) in 2013. She started as a laboratory assistant in the technological research department of the central analytical laboratory, after which she became a research engineer, and now she is a process engineer in a factory. In an interview with WIM Russia, Anna talks about how she came to the industry, what the essence of the work of a technologist is, and how girls on duty live.

– Have you dreamed of working in the mining or metallurgical industry since childhood?

– To be honest, no. Back in 11th grade, I wanted to become an economist. I went to preparatory classes at the Aerospace School, and most of all I liked the subject of economics, I liked solving problems, and I was good at it. But at that time, my cousin taught at the Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals and Materials Science at the Department of Mineral Processing. And, when I was choosing which specialty I should apply for, I decided to go to her, find out what mineral enrichment is and what it is eaten with. I still remember the phrase with which she described the future of education: “study will be difficult, but interesting” – this is what hooked me.

And besides, I realized that if you have a technical education, engineering, you will definitely have a job. What position you will take, whether you will become an engineer – it will already depend on how you show yourself. But at least you will always find a job. There are not so many specialists in enrichment, for example, and they are in demand.

– Do you remember how you first got to the GOK?

– When we were in our third year, we had an introductory practice, I worked for a month at the Gorevsky Mining and Processing Plant, where lead-zinc ores were processed. There, I saw with my own eyes what real production looks like, what flotation is and, in general, how and in what conditions people generally work. It turned out that it is really very interesting – when you see the result of your work – this is the most important thing. It’s not just some words, numbers. You see, here it is, the final product on which you work, and not only you alone, but the whole team.

– Did you hold a bar of gold in your hands?

– I kept it. Our second internship was at the Vasilyevsky gold mine. We, the interns, were taken to the Quality Control Department (OTC) and shown gold – real, not in jewelry, but in the form in which it is obtained at the mine, which people are working on. You know, it was such a feeling, not a “gold rush” at all, not to take it for yourself, no. And understanding how much work was invested in this ingot, how many people tried, what gigantic volumes of ore had to be mined and processed. Awareness of scale.

– After graduation, did you immediately go to work at Polymetal?

– No, after graduation, I worked in the cement industry for about six months. This, of course, is also a very necessary industry, the basis of construction. But still, it’s not at all, not as interesting as working with ore, with minerals, with gold. You know that gold is hidden in minerals, you need to concentrate it as much as possible and waste it as little as possible in the tailings, so that the very ingot is obtained at the output – this cannot be compared with anything.

Therefore, when I was offered to go to Mayskoye, I decided to try. After the university, my classmates and I dispersed in all directions, and some guys just got a job at Mayskoye, and then they began to call me: “Come on, after all, by profession, come on watch with us, you will try yourself.” It so happened that just at that moment my young man (now he is my husband) was leaving for the army, so, in principle, I had a year free. And I decided that I can try myself in this field.

– Wasn’t it scary? Go God knows where, to Chukotka, to watch?

Of course it was scary! To be honest, it was scary to go. I had some idea: that these were some kind of beams, that they were somewhere far away, cut off from civilization, there was nothing. They reassured me, they said: “Everything is fine there, you will see, you will like it.” But fear has big eyes. I took warm things, although I was traveling in May, a bunch of sweaters, socks, for some reason I thought it would be cold. In fact, it turned out to be no colder there than in my native Krasnoyarsk. The only thing that surprised and amazed me in Chukotka was the southern wind – a very strong wind, warm. When it rages, it’s even hard to breathe, this is such a harsh northern region that the wind sweeps away everything in its path.

And in terms of everyday life, when I arrived, I saw completely civilized conditions: a good housing complex, good rooms, showers, food is good. I really did not expect this and was pleasantly surprised.

In general, all conditions have been created at our enterprise so that we feel as comfortable as possible. There is a lounge where you can chat, play board games, a gym where you can play volleyball or football, a billiard room, a gym – and all this is within walking distance.

– Were there many girls at the mine? Did you make friends right away?

– Initially, I got a job in a laboratory, in the department of technological research, there are obviously a lot of girls there. The laboratory, in principle, is associated with girls. But what surprised me was that there were a lot of girls in the office, among geologists, and at the factory.

But I made friends more with a guy, Vasily, with whom we came together. He also got a job as a laboratory assistant and became my “comrade in battle”, we started working together, went to eat together, and went to the gym. In general, it is always more interesting and easier for me to find a common language with guys, I have never been such a girl-girl, maybe that’s why I chose such a specialty.

Soon Vasily went to the factory to work, and then I slowly moved there, grew up.

– What are you doing now, what is the essence of the work of a technologist?

– The technologist, based on the results of analyzes of the processed ore and enrichment products, decides where and what technological parameters need to be adjusted. We have planned indicators, and in order to achieve them, we need to regulate the process, monitor it without fail, and, if necessary, make adjustments, for example, to the reagent regime.

– What is more important here – formal norms or the experience of a technologist?

– Without experience, you can’t get anywhere here and without work “in the field”, that is, if you yourself have not worked in flotation, you are unlikely to understand all the nuances of the ongoing processes. Theory is good, figures are good, but practice decides everything, in practice we get the final product.

Theoretical knowledge, including those obtained at the institute, is important for learning to think, broadening one’s horizons, and learning terms. You need to have some kind of base, because on its basis it will be easier for you to perceive information at work – all the practical experience that will fall on you. Therefore, thanks to our teachers, the institute, who invested this knowledge in us, we still use it.

How do you like your leadership experience?

– When a person moves to a managerial position, his horizons expand, and he sees tasks from a slightly different angle: not only how to directly perform the task, but also what resources need to be used for this, how to optimize the consumption of these resources as much as possible. And, of course, there is more responsibility – so that people not only do the work assigned to them, but also do it as safely as possible, as efficiently as possible.

How would you like to develop further in your profession?

– In our company, in fact, you can develop in any direction, there would be a desire. My bar, let’s say, is internal – to become a good specialist in my field. Last year, I moved from being a research engineer in a lab to being a process engineer in a factory. Here I still have a lot to learn, for this I have good teachers who willingly share knowledge and share their experience.

– How comfortable are you, a girl, in such a traditionally male industry as mining?

– In our world, the line between men and women in the professional sense is less and less noticeable, now knowledge and acquired skills are valued first of all.

There are also pleasant little things on the watch: next to the girls, even harsh men become a little softer. It’s nice when they give you a hand when you leave the shift or give way to a place in the queue in the canteen. Remoteness from the outside world is not an obstacle to the manifestation of gallantry.

– How does your husband feel about your shifts two months later?

– I was lucky, my husband is also a enrichment specialist by profession, we even met in practice at one time. So he knows what it’s like, he knows all the nuances, he managed to work both in the laboratory and in the technical control department, including visiting our Maiskoye. And although now he has chosen for himself a job in the city (in his specialty, but in the city, in the office), he treats my shifts with understanding.

Of course, separation itself is hard, but just the watch makes it clear how dear to us are the people with whom we are together. We begin to appreciate what we have when we are cut off from it. I think that perhaps everyone should try to work on a watch for a change. When you’re at home, you routinely forget how important some things are. And when you are away from home, you miss, you know that your relatives are waiting for you, and you begin to appreciate every moment spent with your family. In general, I really like working on a shift, I am very glad that I once agreed to go, it was worth it.

– Would you advise, let’s say, your profession to the younger generation?

– Right now my nephew is embarking on the path of choosing a profession, an institute and a further direction in life. I will try to help him in this choice. And if it is the mining industry, I will be very happy.

Interfax correspondent Olesya Elkova