20 May 2013, Minerals Council of Australia
Yunus Lucya is the polar opposite of the archetypal Australian Miner. While she prefers to wear her long dark hair in a ponytail, it is obvious that locks of enviable length flow behind the expediently tied back hair. One could not be censured for mistaking this Indonesian born Metallurgist for an inner-city office worker. Indeed, accountancy did form one half of her University experience, but that’s where the similarities end. Yunus is currently one of the rising stars in Australia’s minerals industry, having been awarded the 2012 PACE Yong Achiever Award for an innovative piece of work she completed with Xstrata Mount Isa Mines.
Yunus Lucya is in her element. She has combined her passionate educational pursuits in Accountancy and Chemical Engineering and looked outside of her industry to create a cost-tracking tool that exposes oxygen wastage and saves Xstrata approximately $80,000 per month, of which she modestly states, “I came up with the idea when I was actually sitting at home trying to budget my living expenses, and then I thought ‘Hang on, I could have done this for the company as well!'”. This unassuming metallurgist is now a rising star in Australia’s minerals industry, and she has kindly shared her experiences with the Minerals Tertiary Education Council (MTEC).
What did you study at University?
I completed a double degree in Chemical Engineering and Accounting at the University of Melbourne
Describe your University Experience?
At uni I juggled my time between full-time study and two part-time jobs; one at a supermarket and one as an account-keeper at a small construction company. I enjoyed studying – both of my degrees! I didn’t know which path I wanted to follow – accounting or chemical engineering – until the very end, when, after a vacation placement at an Aluminium Smelter my heart was set on a career in mining.
Describe your Graduate Experience?
I completed Xstrata’s two-year Graduate Program at Xstrata Mount Isa Mines’ in Mount Isa. From the very first day I got to work closely with a range of different people in various roles, from operations and maintenance crews to our management team. Over the two years, I worked in a number of different areas across the operations; smelting, leaching and flotation. I soon found out there was so much more to metallurgy than I learnt at uni! I was really fortunate to have met and worked alongside some brilliant colleagues and professional consultants who passed on a wealth of technical knowledge and guided me along the way.
My advice for final year students would be to take on as many opportunities as you can to gain real experience. Apply for vacation program placements, volunteer for research projects, do work experience – it all helps. Then go for as many graduate positions as you can. Interviews can be nerve wracking, so make life easier for yourself and arrive prepared. Think about the work you have done and how it has helped expand your knowledge – call on any real-life work experiences you have. Finally, when you start in a graduate role, remember that you’re there to learn and no one expects you to know everything on the first day – trust me, you won’t! After years studying it can be disheartening to find you still have so much to learn, but that’s all part of the experience, and you’ll be better for it. If you have a problem or a great idea, don’t be afraid to take it to your supervisor, just make sure you’ve done your homework and you’re prepared when you do. Seek out mentors to guide you along the way and absorb as much information and knowledge on-the-job as you can. I would also advise building an understanding of finances and accounting, especially if you have your sights set on moving into a management role, as the higher up the ladder you climb the more important being able to balance budgets and understand the financial side of the business becomes.
What do you do now?
I was recently promoted to Senior Metallurgist, and I’m currently acting as Metallurgy Manager Copper Smelter, supervising six metallurgists.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
This year, I won the 2012 PACE Young Achiever Award for a cost saving initiative I designed for the Mount Isa Copper Smelter. It was a huge honour to be recognised for my work by my peers and acknowledged by the industry. I was also kind of cool to take out the prize, given I was up against a field of male finalists!
Basically, Xstrata Copper North Queensland has been challenged with reducing production costs this year, and so to clearly define and better understand our consumption costs as well as identify areas to reduce costs within our primary smelting operation, I proposed and developed a Cost Tracking Tool which was presented and implemented in February 2012. I came up with the idea while I was reconciling my household budget for the month using just an average Excel spreadsheet. My system had always helped me keep tabs on my own cash flow and better understand my expenses and any variances so I thought, ‘hey, why can’t we use the same method at work!”
So far, the tool has helped identify critical areas for cost saving, including costs associated with the smelter’s oxygen, coal and diesel consumption. The Cost Tracking Tool has helped us gain a better understanding of oxygen wastages in our primary smelting operations, and has resulted in several cost saving initiatives to reduce wastage and save us about $80 thousand per month.
Is it hard being a non-Australian born woman in the Minerals industry?
Not at all. While mining is traditionally a male-dominated industry, I think the balance has swung around significantly over the past few years and we are seeing more and more women pursuing careers and excelling in non-traditional roles. The mining industry, in my experience, is concerned less about who you are or whether you’re a man or a woman, and more about how capable you are and what you bring to the table. The thing I love about working for Xstrata is they see diversity as an asset and value people who think differently.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
I get to work with and learn from a broad range of people and personalities across different departments. Working in the smelter, it’s exciting to see our ideas put into practice, and to contribute to projects that bring results for the company. As a metallurgist, I am also heavily involved with the Finance department working on budgets, production planning and costs, which I love because I get to call on my accounting background.
Interested in a Professional Minerals Career?
If you found Yunus’ story interesting, and would like to learn more about the many great options and experiences available to students who study minerals disciplines in Mining Engineering, Geology or Metallurgy, then go to https://minerals.org.au to learn more.
By James Seaford
Project Officer at the Minerals Tertiary Education Council