When Glenys Perkins and her late husband discovered evidence of old gold mine workings on their farm, it was the beginning of a 40 year love affair with the mining and minerals sector.
“We sold our new car at the time and purchased a gold screening plant. It has certainly been an interesting journey from those initial tentative beginnings,” she says.
Today, Glenys is recognised as one of the industry leaders on the West Coast, renowned for her vast project management experience and knowledge of the mining and minerals sector in the South Island.
She is currently project manager for Titan Resources, manager of Taylor Coal, a director of Birchfield Coal, on the board of the Coal Association of New Zealand, and is a trustee of West Coast Minerals.
As if that isn’t enough to keep her busy, Glenys continues to gold mine with her son and daughter on the home farm, where they have also developed a dairy support unit and bed and breakfast tourist venture to complement the mining operations.
Earlier this year Glenys was inducted into the Worldwide Who’s Who, for Excellence in Mining.
“To be accepted by this prestigious organisation of professionals was a surprise and really satisfying,” she says.
Glenys grew up in an “active family”, with a father who worked as a general contractor in land development, river protection, bush contracting and later as a coal miner throughout the West Coast.
After his death, her mother asked for Glenys’ help to run the family coal mine, where she found herself bagging coal and answering the phone.
“I quickly learned that coal is a very complex mineral and that every coal mine on the West Coast mines a different coal specification. Understanding the dimensions of this coal chemistry from formation, mining and processing through to the combustion process has been an intriguing and challenging journey.”
It was also around this time Glenys learned that while gold mining might be considered the “glamour industry, with the perceived romance of a quick fortune”, coal mining is for the more steady resource harvester, seeking a stable long term investment.
Glenys is still involved in the family business concentrating on sales, marketing and representation of the coal industry, “probably as my machine operator skills have diminished,” she says.
These days she mostly drives a laptop rather than a machine, working at the “marketing, innovation and management levels” within Titan Resources, Taylor Coal and Birchfield Coal to ensure their future development.
She is also happy to serve on industry organisations, saying it is important the “grass roots voice of those in touch with the “coal face” is represented.
“The day to day challenges facing these industries must be articulated so they are understood when policies are applied for the efficient extraction of any resource.”
The “valuable and essential” contribution made by West Coast coals to the South Island economy shouldn’t be underestimated, she says.
“Almost one million tonnes of coal per year are used in the processing of milk, meat, wool and horticulture. The supermarket shelves would be very bare if it was not for coal used in the processing of these essential everyday products.”
Glenys says her gender has never been a barrier to working in the extractive industry.
“It was not difficult for me because I was born into the industry. However I established credibility early on because I was keen to learn new skills and give it a go. I don’t buy into the negative response to difficult challenges. It’s all about attitude and how motivated you are to succeed.”
She would like to see more woman take advantage of the “myriad of opportunities” within the resource sector; and see a greater percentage of women moving into management and representation positions.
“The women entering the industry whom I have met recently are brilliant women, who I hope will go a very long way to furthering not only their own careers but expanding the opportunities for our minerals resource industries in New Zealand.”
She is also keen to see some of the established initiatives from the Australian mining industry introduced here.
“The Australian mining industry is well supported, both politically and by the public in comparison with our extractive industry in New Zealand. I believe our local mining industry would benefit from the introduction of initiatives such as the Australian ‘Minds in Mines’ programme, which supports not only the mining industry, but rural communities in promoting the wellbeing of our greatest resource – our people.”