As part of our Careers in Mining series, this post looks at the job of Process Engineer/Metallurgist with Farnaz Behzadian of JDS Energy & Mining Inc.
Farnaz received her Bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering from Iran. After gaining couple of years of engineering experience internationally, she moved to Canada to complete her Master's degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. She has acquired over ten years of extensive engineering experience in the mining, environmental and oil and gas industries. Farnaz's specialization is in developing process design documents and flow sheets, mass and water balance, equipment sizing, capital and operating cost estimation for base and precious metals, as well as preparing NI 43-101 technical reports for mining projects. She also has a strong working knowledge in mineral processing plant design and engineering.
What is your main role as a Process Engineer/Metallurgist?
As a metallurgist I have to develop process design documents and flow sheets, mass and water balance, equipment sizing, capital and operating cost estimation as well as preparing NI 43-101 technical reports for mineral and mining projects. I also review the process engineering documents and make sure that we are delivering the highest quality and accuracy in our design, and that we are aligned with the other disciplines working on the project. Additionally, and depending on the project, a site visit may be required to evaluate site conditions and gather pertinent information that may affect the overall project performance. Client satisfaction is key, and an extremely important component of our business.
What came first - a desire to go into mining, or the desire to become an engineer?
The desire to become an engineer came first. I very much enjoyed math and physics when I was in high school and that automatically dragged me into engineering studies. I enjoy the technical aspects of my job and the fact that I can design and build processing plants and solve technical problems within the process, gives me enormous self-satisfaction. I used to work overseas in the oil & gas industry as a process & piping engineer, however moving to Vancouver gave me the opportunity to get involved in the mining and mineral processing industry and I have enjoyed it very much so far.
Is your job mostly office based or do you spend more time at mine/exploration sites?
I spend most of my time in the office preparing technical and engineering documents for mining projects however recently I've had the opportunity to visit the Sa Dena Hes mine in the Yukon Territories. I am also looking forward to an upcoming visit to the Mount Poly Mine here in British Columbia. I believe visiting mine sites gives me a better vision about the projects that I am working on. Additionally I have volunteered, and am looking forward to working on the construction and commissioning of a magnetite recovery plant coming up this fall, also located here in BC.
Has your job allowed you to travel? If so, where to?
I've had the opportunity of working in many different countries - there is shortage of engineers in most parts of the world. After gaining a couple of years of engineering experience in my home country, Iran, I had the opportunity to work as a piping & process engineer in Malaysia. This exposed me to experience of working in a multicultural environment. After completing my Master's degree in Canada, I started working in the mining & mineral industry in Vancouver. During this time I was required to travel to different US offices including Bolder and Denver, Colorado. I also traveled to Las Vegas to attend the Mine Expo Mining Conference last year and visited a mill in the Yukon Territories recently. In general, as an engineer you will typically travel more as you become more senior in your role.
If you are away from home for extended periods, what makes you the type of person that can do this successfully?
I am passionate about my work and that motivates me to do whatever it takes to deliver. I look at the traveling for work as a great opportunity to visit different places and different people, make new friends and expand my professional network. I always find traveling exciting. I believe if you would like to progress in your career, you need to be ready for every challenge and although being away from home can be a challenge, it is also very interesting.
What does your average day look like?
I usually work 10 -12 hours per day and time flies because I enjoy it a lot, especially since I joined JDS. JDS has such a pleasant and friendly environment that I feel I am working with my family and friends. It makes me very motivated and helps me to overcome the challenges of my work with a positive attitude. I also spend some time with my co-workers either having a group lunch or doing other activities after work, as time permits. Colleagues at work can become your good friends as you spend quite a lot of time together every day.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I have studied and worked in different countries and I believe this has given me a well-rounded experience, enabling me to look at things from different perspectives and to learn to adapt quickly to new environments. My career even helped me to move to Canada. As I mentioned there is shortage of engineers everywhere and having an engineering degree made me a good candidate to immigrate to Canada. I am constantly learning while I put my engineering knowledge to practice. I love that about my job.
What do you love most about your job?
I enjoy the technical aspect of my job a lot, solving problems and building mines & mills makes me feel good about myself and that I am being a productive member of the community that I live in. I also enjoy working with others as part of an engineering team, and having a well-respected and established office to work out of, makes my life very organized and disciplined. I also enjoy traveling for business, it's work and fun together. I also love my work place environment which is very dynamic and friendly.
There must be aspects of the job which you don't enjoy so much. What are they?
In general, I am quite happy with my career path. However, when in the office, I have to spend most of my day sitting behind the computer. Although this can be tiring, I believe these technical and computer skills are an asset to most jobs these days. In order to balance the lack of physical activity in my daily routine and have a better life style, I try to exercise regularly after work. That helps me a lot. Also working in construction & commissioning sites helps because you have to be physically active and move around the site to supervise the work.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow a similar career path?
I am very happy with the path I took in becoming an engineer. If you are someone who enjoys building things and solving technical problems, are precise, persistent, and detail-oriented, then being an engineer will bring you joy and self-satisfaction. As an engineer I have had the opportunity to travel around the world, meet so many new people, move to different countries, visit different places and more importantly to be a valuable person within our community. I highly recommend it as a profession.
For more interviews with mining professionals in different jobs, have a look at our main Careers in Mining post.
Header photo: aerial seeding at Highland Valley Copper. Image courtesy of Teck Resources Ltd.