This is the sixth story in a seven-part series by the UA College of Engineering about the role of women in mining.
Other stories in this series include:
Ruby Barickman stood mesmerized watching a 29-ton drill bit, or reamer, boring an exhaust hole 14 feet in diameter and 550 feet deep, backwards, from underground to the surface at a Rio Tinto mine site in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The drill, or raise borer, one of only a few in North America, was assembled underground but operated from above ground, and that means fewer miners underground.
"I was at the bottom watching as it first started to spin around and drill upwards," said the 2012 University of Arizona mining engineering graduate. "It was a completely new process to me. Even a lot of the older people I was with had never seen that before."
Barickman is on assignment in Michigan and one of only a handful of engineers planning a small mine project there. Like many women in the University's mining and geological engineering program, she fell into mining engineering, the romance began, and now she is in love. Barickman already had her mind set on engineering, but opportunity drew her to the mining industry, and it is opportunity that likely will keep her there.
"Getting people into the industry is really just about exposure," she said.
Barickman, who recently was accepted into the UA online master's program in mining engineering, thinks mining will stick and eventually plans to roll her engineering skills more into the social and political side of mining.
A former College of Engineering Ambassador and secretary of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration student chapter, Barickman traveled alone to Budapest, Hungary as an exchange student in her sophomore year then toured throughout Europe. She is excited about the possibility of worldwide travel in mining, rising through the ranks, and contributing to an industry she sees as not having received a fair shake.
"The social perception of mining is a huge problem," she said. "A lot of people speak on behalf of mining but don't know much about mining."
Compounding the misinformed negative perception is the mining industry's history of reacting defensively, and Barickman sees advantages to applying her engineering know-how to the problem.
"There is a lot of value in taking an engineering analytical approach to the opposition," she said. "A new trend is occurring now with mining companies beginning to get on the offensive and promote their names and their brands and their companies, just like in any other industry."
It is far out, but Barickman thinks she may even go on to get her doctorate, teach and influence other young women. She sees her life falling out much like that of her mentor, UA Distinguished Professor Mary Poulton, mining and geological department head. Poulton inspired and continues to inspire Barickman, along with countless other UA students.
"She is such a huge influence on the entire industry, so successful yet so accessible, and always there for us."
Barickman has added another mentor to her support network as well. She has been selected to join the approximately 40-member Young Leaders Committee in the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration. As a member of the committee, she will be partnered with a senior mining engineer in Montana.
"It is inspiring to be able to connect with another woman in the industry who is obviously very successful," she said.
"Women offer different perspectives, and maybe there are problems women can help address better. The more women who get into the industry, the better."