Veronica Knott, one of Disrupt Mining's 2018 judges, led a group of UBC students and faculty to evaluate the 100-plus submissions to the challenge. Courtesy of Veronica Knott

For anyone looking at Disrupt Mining’s 2018 panel of judges, one name may have stuck out: Veronica Knott, a mining engineering student at the University of British Columbia. For a competition whose previous panels have been comprised of the industry’s biggest names, well into their careers – and last year included more men named Rob than women – Knott marked a departure from the norm in more ways than one.

Currently an intern with Barrick Gold, working at the company’s Hemlo mine in northern Ontario, Knott, 24, is already making an impression in the industry as an up-and-coming talent and a natural leader.

At UBC, she has been a student member on the university’s Board of Governors, and has been a member or chair of close to 40 committees. While president of the UBC Engineering Undergraduate Society, she led a project to make the society more inclusive for students and created the Iron Pin Ceremony to promote inclusivity and professional ethics. “I think it’s ended up being a really nice welcoming ceremony for our first year [students], and I’m really proud of that,” she said.

Last year she was named Engineers Canada’s Gold Medal Student, and the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade gave her the Wendy McDonald Women to Watch Award, acknowledging her “passionate commitment” to student leadership at UBC and her aim to “make her surrounding community more welcoming and inclusive.”

“[My executive and I] were just saying ‘how can we make more people feel welcome to this family?’” Knott said. “I love being a part of that community and I want everybody to feel like they can be, too.”

The UBC community was what led her to Disrupt Mining. Another member of the university’s board of governors introduced her to Todd White, Goldcorp’s chief operating officer, and they went for coffee. “We discussed the future of mining, where the industry’s going, and how much I love the industry,” she said. “It was just a fantastic coffee.”

White was impressed, and mentioned her to Luis Canepari, Goldcorp’s vice-president of technology, who reached out to her about participating on the judging panel.

“The future is really in this next generation of miners, why not give one of them a judging position?” Canepari told CIM Magazine of the thinking behind the decision. The panel has mining, venture capital and technology companies represented, he said, “so why don’t we [invite] someone with a completely different perspective of what mining should be?”

And Knott, he said, was the perfect fit. “She’s a remarkable young woman, and that kind of talent and profile is going to change the mining industry in the future,” he said.

Related: Mohammad Babaei, senior technical analyst of digital operations at Teck, has achieved quite a lot for someone still a couple of years away from 30

Goldcorp took a new approach to Disrupt Mining this year, in which Knott factored prominently, Canepari said. The company asked her to assemble a team of UBC students and faculty members to take a first pass at the more than 100 submissions and give the company its recommendations. From there, Goldcorp executives narrowed the field to 12, and then finally chose the top four.

Knott said that reviewing the proposals showed her how many “diverse new technologies” are shaping the industry. “I think that’s kind of been the best part about being a judge, you get to see everything and your mind is opened,” she said. “It’s such a unique competition and an exciting experience, I’m just happy to be able to be a part of it.”

But if Knott had gone for her first-choice university program, she wouldn’t have been. In high school she applied for both modern history and engineering university programs. “I kind of just threw engineering in there, I didn’t really think of it too seriously,” she admitted. But closer to graduation she wondered what she would do with a modern history degree. “If I went into engineering I was keeping as many doors open as possible,” she said.

And then she loved it. “I got so lucky because it fit perfectly for me,” she said, because she always loved solving problems. She started at UBC as a materials engineering student, but transferred to mining after sitting in on a class that caught her interest by showing the real-world applications for what students were learning in school. “You could really understand the impact that you were making,” she said.

Knott has interned with Cathedral Energy Services in Calgary, Alight Mining Solutions in San Francisco, and has been back in her home province of Ontario since last May working with Barrick. She’s rotated through underground engineering, metallurgy and operational excellence, and currently has been working with scheduling and short interval control. “Barrick is doing a really great job at finding all these new ideas and bringing them to site so we get to really interact with them,” she said.

This summer she’ll join Goldcorp as an intern. “We don’t usually get this aggressive trying to hire somebody,” Canepari said with a laugh. “Every year we have too many students that apply, we have our choice. This is the first time I’ve seen us actively pursuing a student.”

To read more of our We Are Mining series, click here.