Joan Bath: A Pioneer in Engineering and Mining

Alumnus Joan Bath (BE MBA FAusIMM) recently visited the School of Mineral and Energy Resources to share her professional journey and unique insight into the industry with students. Joan is a true pioneer, having achieved multiple Australian firsts in education and in industry.

Joan completed her UNSW degree in 1974, the first woman in Australia to graduate in mining engineering. Initially interested in joining UNSW as a geology student, Joan was encouraged by the then Head of the School of Mining Engineering, Professor J. P. Morgan to consider a mining engineering degree. At the time there were so few women as engineering students, there was compulsory membership into the Engineering women’s netball team in order to make the minimum team numbers!

Despite graduating with first class honours, Joan was originally constrained to office-based work, not only as women were not allowed underground, but also due to the conservatism of the industry. Seven years after starting her career, Joan was finally able to work on-site as a mine engineer, firstly in mine planning and later in operations and production roles on surface mines throughout Australia. In 1986, Joan achieved another first for a woman in Australia, qualifying for a Quarry Manager’s Certificate of Competency eleven years after graduation. This ticket was usually achieved by male mining engineers within the first 3-5 years of their career.

During her talk, Joan recounted many humorous highlights from her time at UNSW and across her career as well as her tips for women in engineering, and mining engineers in general:

  • Better results are achieved in the workplace with a diverse workforce
  • Communication is vital so make sure your messages are clear.
  • Data and results that are computer generated are important, but always do a reasonableness/ reality check. Check the geology interpretation matches the data and what you see on the ground.

Both society’s expectations and technological advances have greatly evolved since the beginning of Joan’s career and this has reshaped much of the current work of mining engineers. Now, 3D modelling, and environmental impact statements are the norm.

“Computer and environment have had a massive impact on everyday life. Science and technology affect what we eat, wear and do.” Joan said. “If we don’t have women in STEM, we won’t advance humanity in the world.”

Following the presentation, our staff and students enjoyed afternoon tea with Joan, before she toured our facilities including the Advanced Visualisation Lab with its virtual reality simulator.

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