Monika Øksnes

Chief Operating Officer, Norge Mineraler AS

News

From Camp Manager to Chief Operating Officer in one year

23/12/2021

Within a year of working at Norge Mining I’ve gone from being Camp Manager to now Chief Operating Officer. My background has, in no small part, set me up for these roles. I grew up on a small sheep farm about an hour and a half northwest of Bergen in Norway. This meant I was raised in nature, and have respect for the environment. Every September, my family and I herd our sheep down from the mountains where they’re put out to graze in the summer. Whatever is going on at work, I never miss this tradition. Exploring the mountains when I was younger also sparked an interest in rocks – and that, no doubt, explains why I went on to study geology (I have a Master’s degree in the subject).

Magnetic mineral

My favourite mineral of the three we are exploring is magnetite, simply because it is magnetic – which I find fascinating. The magnetite in our exploration area also contains vanadium. What’s also interesting about vanadium is how it may be used in battery production. There’s been a lot of talk of building battery factories in the region – even quite locally to us here. Local sourcing and then local production, on our doorstep, would be an interesting development.

Back to my start at Norge Mining and I was on-site at the core shed in Rogaland county in southern Norway within two days of being offered the job. This was during the early, but very exciting stage of investigative drilling. And the rest is history. Then, just 12 months later, I got a call from John Vergopoulos, our CEO, asking me to be Chief Operating Officer. It was unexpected. But, of course, I jumped at the chance.

Full circle

As COO, I help recruit many of the geologists who work in the core shed; I’ve come full circle. My team has a work-hard mindset, but there’s a great vibe too. No-one is just waiting for pay day. Everyone is keen to learn as much as possible. And it’s an open environment where people are free to share opinions. For my team, next year will be interesting. We have a Scoping Study coming out which will dictate how we proceed with our next phase of investigations.

Standout moments

Looking back at the last year, there have been some standout memories – such as when a teacher knocked on our office door asking whether school children could come and visit the core shed. Which, of course, we obliged. You can read more here about how we’ve now had several groups of children visit us and see the different geology and minerals we’re testing. I also remember another visit, when one of the regional politicians from the Labour Party was here, and she turned to me and said “Do only women work at Norge Mining?” That was a funny moment, because although the mining industry has historically been male dominated, with young geologists coming up through the ranks there’s more of a balance. Although as COO, I prefer to recruit people based on their knowledge and skill.

Scrutiny & sensitivity

In northern Norway, deep inside the Arctic Circle, Nussir ASA is aiming to build the world’s first zero-carbon mining operation. But it has come under scrutiny regarding alleged tailing deposits – and worry about the impact of its operations on local wildlife. We are watching developments from afar, cognizant of the fact that these are hugely sensitive topics. We are committed to understanding more about how to develop a sustainable mine. We will always look for the best solutions for the environment that have a circular economic approach.

If we don’t, Norwegians won’t accept it. And that’s right. I feel at an advantage that I have the background I have, and that I empathise and relate to local issues – and I can put myself in the shoes of local people. To meet the climate challenges we face, we need to progress towards a sustainable society, which is more mineral intensive. At the same time, we need to preserve nature and the land for future generations. I feel passionately about this. And I respect the fact that Norge Mining as a company is very in tune with these values.