Though they join us from all over the country, even the world, miners make their homes, build their lives, advance their careers and care for their families right here in Nevada, thanks to the opportunities given to them by mining. In this edition of “Meet your Miners,” we introduce you to one of the many amazing people that made their way to Nevada to pursue a career in the mining industry.
Joanne Stursa grew up on a farm in North Dakota. At 23-years-old, she found herself trying to support her two children earning about five dollars per hour. She knew she had to make a change, so she earned her certification in air conditioning, refrigeration, heating and sheet metal.
With her recent certification, things were looking up for Stursa and her husband and family. But when the oilfield busted in North Dakota, leaving thousands jobless, the family was left with no choice but to move in order to find work. Stursa’s career in mining began immediately following her move to Nevada in 1987, working for a small mining construction company called Lost Dutchman Construction at the Trinity Silver Mine near Lovelock, Nevada.
“We heard of the mining in Nevada,” recalled Stursa. “We packed our bags and moved west. I started working as a laborer on the powder crew. It didn’t take long before I worked my way up to blaster. Mining blew me away, no pun intended; I was hooked!”
She currently operates and trains fellow employees on heavy machinery at Silver Standard Resources’ Marigold Mine. Whether working with the 300-ton Hitachi and Komatsu trucks or the 190-ton Caterpillars, Stursa understands what it takes to work one’s way up to operating such a large machine.
“Training starts with a thorough understanding of the mine’s operating standards, equipment manuals and inspections,” said Stursa, who is in charge of coordinating that training for Silver Standard Resources. “The driver has to complete a series of scenarios and events. Creating a good sense of our mine site creates muscle memory of the actual controls of the trucks while developing strong reaction times.”
Aside from the obvious benefit of taking better care of her family financially, Stursa appreciates the knowledge gained through her career that she would otherwise lacked without a job in mining. The encouragement she tries to bring to the job has helped her in her own growth, as well as her ability to help others transition into their new positions.
“I’m happy coming to work and coming home,” said Stursa. “Never in my wildest dreams, growing up on a farm in North Dakota, did I think I would handle explosives, operate heavy equipment, work in exploration or teach people to do all of these things.”
When asked about opportunities in mining, specifically for women to succeed in the industry, her response echoed that of those who were asked the same question before her: “There are so many opportunities…so many doors that can open. Just find the courage to knock!”