Christine Blackmore CEnv FIMMM (Profile)
Christine Blackmore (pictured in the Sahara Desert, Mauritania, West Africa), Principal Environmental Geologist at Wardell Armstrong LLP, is a Chartered Environmentalist and an expert on cyanide.
A Fellow of IOM3 since March 2009 and Honorary Secretary of the Western Institute of Mining and Minerals (WIMM) for five years, she will become the first female president of WIMM in September 2011. Her job with Wardell Armstrong regularly takes her into the deepest reaches of Africa, China, Mexico and Kazakhstan.
Christine started her working life with a 10 year stint in the Royal Navy as a Communications Officer – a role that included high level national intelligence assignments working in Whitehall, Northwood, Gibraltar and North Africa.
After bringing up three children, she made a career change and took a part-time job at Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institution Brinsford near Wolverhampton, partly to fund a BSc in Applied Geology at Staffordshire University. ‘It was a testing time,’ she remembers, ‘I was juggling three kids, a mortgage and travelling to Stoke as a mature student. Geology was entirely new to me, but I’d always been drawn by landscapes, rocks and the rocks underlying them’.
In 2001 she joined engineering and environmental consultancy Wardell Armstrong as an Applied Geologist, working on the design and construction side of landfill engineering. A few years later she extended her academic qualifications with an MSc from Staffordshire University in Environmental Management and Environmental Geology.
Interest in cyanide
The experience that Christine had gained in landfill engineering was useful when, in 2008, she moved into international mining within Wardell Armstrong. She was involved in construction quality assurance for the building of tailing dams – advising on the use of natural minerals, such as clays, in the lining of dams, and using her expertise in geo-synthetics. But it was cyanide that caught her attention.
‘It’s not a job for the faint-hearted,’ she says. ‘Cyanide is one of the most highly toxic and potentially lethal substances known to man. But it also plays a vital part in the “carbon in leach” process used by mining companies to separate gold from ore. So making sure that it’s stored, transported and handled safely is quite literally life-critical’.
Carrying out cyanide audits for mining companies in accordance with international management codes soon became a speciality for Christine. The work took her to one of Mauritania’s largest copper gold mines, as a construction quality assurance inspector for three carbon in leach dams taking tailings from the processing plant. She conducted a pilot cyanide audit to make recommendations on how the mine could improve its procedures and processes.
This sparked her determination to gain personal accreditation as a cyanide auditor from the International Cyanide Management Institute. The International Register of Certificated Auditors course that Christine is studying is a stepping stone to gaining an accreditation in environmental auditing that is held by a handful of people in the UK, and fewer than 100 in the world.
Christine takes on plenty of challenges in her work with Wardell Armstrong. A waste oil audit took her on a 1,500-mile trip from Akjoujt in Mauritania to the capital Nouakchott, across the Senegalese ‘Sweet water’ river on a tiny ferry one tanker at a time and on to the waste oil refinery in Dakar to make sure that the oil was disposed of in an environmentally responsible way. ‘Life’s a tremendous adventure,’ she says.
She relishes her role within WIMM, seeing it as a great opportunity to meet other professionals in mining and related industries. She is proud of the improvements she has overseen as Honorary Secretary, including introducing a more varied programme, encouraging networking, establishing a microsite and attracting more attendees to WIMM events.