Kathryn Russell: Mineral Processing

Studying chemistry gave me a deeper understanding of chemical theory and experimental design.

'I graduated in 2010 with honours degrees in both chemical engineering and chemistry from The University of Melbourne. Studying chemistry gave me a deeper understanding of chemical theory and experimental design, which really complimented my engineering degree.

After a short break, I joined Rio Tinto’s graduate program as a mineral processing engineer. Based in Melbourne, I worked with the different commodity groups to identify and develop new opportunities, for both existing plants and new mines. My hours in the laboratory during university paid off, as I jumped between benchtop tests and pilot plants across the country. I read journals, ran simulations and wrote reports. There were even times I dragged out my notes to find that one slide…

In 2014 I relocated to Newcastle to join Tomago Aluminium. The Tomago smelter uses over 10% of NSW’s electricity to reduce alumina into aluminium metal. The majority of the metal is shipped to Asia, where it is transformed into aluminium foil, engine parts and construction materials. I started in a Continuous Improvement role before moving into the electrolysis department. Even though I ran electrolysis experiments at university, it is a completely different challenge to now optimise 840 reduction cells at once. I am in a great team, and we are achieving record performance results."

This article originally appeared in Engage on the Faculty of Science School of Chemistry website.

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