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Q&A: NVMA Safety Award Winners
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Q&A: NVMA Safety Award Winners

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Two winners of the Nevada Mining Association’s individual safety awards in the category for middle management share their gratitude, motivations and inspirations in this question-and-answer session for Mining the West.

Greg Robinson, Coeur Rochester Site Development Manager

Greg Robinson is a mining engineer who has made a career in mining, including 10 years with Coeur Mining Inc.’s Rochester silver and gold mine outside of Lovelock.

At Rochester, he has held various positions from operations manager to assistant general manager. He is now the site development manager in charge of a plan of operations amendment.

“Greg has been in mining for most of his career and as such, has a broad base in safety culture and programs,” according to the NVMA nomination form. “He is a consummate professional that continually is looking to improve the safety culture and performance through participation and, equally as important, coaching and mentoring.”

Under Robinson’s supervision and guidance, the project had worked 167,927 total hours with no lost-time injuries or accidents with an LTI frequency rate of 0.00, and total recordable incident frequency rate of 0.00 and all incident frequency rate of 1.19 as of the date of the nomination.

What does it mean to you to receive a Nevada Mining Association award?

It really means a lot. It’s something that I get to carry with me for the rest of my career, whether I do anything notable again. It feels really good.

The way the process works is people nominate you and they go through and make decisions from there. It feels good that the people I work with respect me enough to nominate me.

Just working for Rochester for several years now, we have always made it a priority to recognize through this opportunity the people that do a lot of good work around safety, and I’m one of six people at Rochester who won this year and 40 or 50 people who have won over the last eight years that I’ve been here, so it’s really good to be part of that legacy and work for a place that puts emphasis on safety so much and sets a standard in our industry.

What is your approach or philosophy toward safety?

The biggest thing is, if you think about it, if you don’t have good safety, if you aren’t doing it right, you send people home hurt or even worse. I’ve seen that in my career. I have had to deal with a lot of situations that a lot of people don’t have to deal with in terms of informing families that their loved one isn’t coming home.

It’s just in the end too serious not to get it right. It’s something that is out in the news a lot, and we talk about it a lot, but it doesn’t hit home until you have to knock on somebody’s door or drive someone to the hospital who is hurt.

In the end, we owe it to our co-workers, and our employees and ourselves to do everything we possibly can to work safely and make sure those around us are doing the same.

For me personally, I have a wife and three daughters, and I view it as my responsibility to make good decisions at work so that I go home to them every day. They depend on me to do that. They don’t think about it a lot and I probably think about it a lot more than I should but they are depending on me. If I didn’t go home one day, they would really feel that, so it’s my responsibility to make that happen.

Over time I’ve felt like as a supervisor and a manager and someone who deals with the workforce, it’s my responsibility to make sure that those people are able to do that as well.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I have an eclectic view of mining. It’s really cool, I think, that I work in an industry that safety and responsibly produces the most basic of building materials. We’re a pretty small industry but we are very unique and vital to the world. If you look around in my office right now, every single thing that I have in my office from my computer and my phone and the door with the handle on it comes or are only possible because of mining. So I’m really proud that I’m part of that. It’s a little bit eclectic or old-fashioned view, it’s something the average person can’t say they are part of that kind of contribution to society.

If you could spend a day with one person, who would it be and why?

I’m a big fan of Abraham Lincoln. I’ve read a lot of history and definitely a lot of books written about him and the things he did.

But basically the “why” of that, aside from being a fascinating person, he helped guide the nation through one of the most difficult times it’s ever been through and to learn about somebody with that kind of fortitude and vision and courage is daunting and it is something that I would like to apply to my own life — not that I have any aspirations for any political office, let alone presidency. I really admire people who build things themselves and build something out of their lives and he is definitely a prototype or a case in point on that front. So Abraham Lincoln.

Who has been most influential in shaping your career and why?

There have been a whole lot of people … but in terms of career, there is a group of people that really stand out. That is one of the things I really love about this industry is people are really interesting and they’re all really good people almost bar none. As I was working my way up through the ranks, I worked first as shift supervisor then as assistant general manager here at Coeur Rochester. I work with the workforce a lot and what I have found at all of these places is the workforce — the equipment operators, the people doing real work — are some of the best people I’ve ever known. They’re some of the smartest, most down to earth and practical people in the world and know how to solve problems and dig in and get stuff done when it needs to be done and then they challenge themselves and others and they do it safely.

From those types of people throughout my career I have learned just so much about mining and leadership and practical things like how to build stuff.

The workforce and the operators that I have had the privilege to work with over the years are probably the most influential.

What keeps you coming back to work every day?

It’s really challenging, it’s unique and the people are really great. It’s a serious business. We do a lot of serious stuff, and there are serious consequences if we do it wrong either for the company or for people personally in terms of safety and environmental responsibility.

But it’s a fun environment. We manage to bond with a lot of good people along the way. You go for the people. That is really what gets me up in the morning and makes me drive to work every day.

What part do you play as a supervisor in establishing the safety culture at your site or on your team?

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Safety culture is about people. If we create an environment where people can make good decisions then empower them to make those good decisions, that’s what they’ll do. Then after all that, they’ll want to talk about it — especially if you ask them, they’ll tell you how to do it even better in the future. It creates this cycle where people feel comfortable and confident they will have support if they make good decisions and if they take the safe route, and then they feel like they have a part [in the safety culture].

I’ve been really fortunate at Rochester in particular and other mines I’ve worked at, I’ve watched that happen where we would sit down and communicate with the workforce, how can you do this better? What do I need to do to enable you to do this safely? And they’ll talk about it and they’ll give you ideas and you can implement them and then pretty quick, several years have gone by and you haven’t had a lost-time accident. It’s really pretty basic when it comes down to it but it is fascinating to be a part of.

Ann Vath, Kinross Round Mountain Mill Supervisor

After 36 years of service to Kinross Round Mountain gold mine in Nye County, mill supervisor Ann Vath approaches her work in an honest and straightforward way and is “real in any situation,” her peers wrote on the NVMA nomination form.

Vath launched her mining career at Round Mountain in 1984 after growing up in St. Louis, Missouri. She started out in the assay lab as a “bucker,” or someone who prepares samples, and progressed through jobs at the mine’s crusher, mill and mine department before returning to the mill.

As mill supervisor, Vath oversees the everyday operations of the mill with four supervisor and their crews under her purview. They help ensure that the teams are meeting their targets for production, recovery and more.

Vath was instrumental in commissioning a portable jaw crusher at Round Mountain.

“This project had an extremely high demand and short timeline for completion,” the nomination form states. “There were no injury incidents during this commissioning under Ann’s leadership.”

What does it mean to you to receive a Nevada Mining Association award?

To me, it’s awesome. It’s an honor I have worked in this industry for 36 years, so it’s a great achievement for me. I’ve been here a long time, and I’m just honored to be put in and picked.

What is your approach or philosophy toward safety?

Safety is always No. 1 to me. I believe in going home with everything you came with. You’ve got families out there. Safety is No. 1 from day one. I’ve told the guys, if you see me doing something let me know, because I need someone watching out for me, too.

What are you most proud of in your career?

What I’m most proud of is getting to work with all the operators and supervisors over the years because of the success stories on their part, not so much mine, but their success stories as they grow and learn as they grow and progress.

I always want to see people succeed. I can’t succeed if they don’t succeed. Their success is my success.

What advice do you like to give co-workers regarding safety?

I always say lead by example for co-workers. Go out and lead by example for supervisors and everyone else. You can’t preach something and do something else. If you don’t follow procedures and policies, don’t expect anybody else to follow them. Then you will get people to buy into that.

If you could spend a day with one person, who would it be and why?

Mine would be Jesus. That’s who my person would be. I’m going to spend eternity with him, but if I could spend one day then come back to Earth, it would be Jesus.

Who was most influential in shaping your career and why?

I’m a faith-based person, so who I am is because of my faith. As far as one person, I would say it would be my husband now [Leo Vath] because he has supported me through a lot through my career. He’s been my rock for the last 26 years.

What keeps you coming back to work every day?

I enjoy it. That’s the bottom line. I enjoy the people. I enjoy my boss. That’s probably the bottom line. Most people say money, but that’s not what brings me back here.

Over your tenure, what is one of the biggest changes you have witnessed in regard to safety?

The critical risk management they just put in place here last year really has changed how people look at our incidents, everything.

We don’t look at the little stuff that might be a hazard, we look at the bigger stuff that can kill us like working around conveyers. So, the bigger hazards that can hurt you and can kill. We look at small hazards, too.

You can have the best safety record and still have a fatality, and that’s what you don’t want at all.

So you start looking at more of your critical risks, and it is changing the way the culture is. You’re getting more buy-in with your employees to take safety a little more serious than you would if you go out and look at the minor stuff they don’t take it as serious than if you look at the bigger picture.

What part do you play as a supervisor in establishing the safety culture at your site or on your team?

Since I’m a general supervisor, I get to interact with all the supervisors. I try to get them all onboard and get them out there looking at the critical risk management, which is a key contributor to keeping everyone safe. It’s getting to be out there with the guys, the superintendents and the crews and make sure that safety is being taken as No. 1. 

Editor’s note: SSR Mining did not respond to multiple requests for an interview with the third winner in this category.

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Greg Robinson of Coeur Rochester and Ann Vath of Kinross Round Mountain won individual safety awards from the Nevada Mining Association in 202…

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