What does a vice-president of exploration do?
Chris Sennitt is in a very senior role at Orient Minerals. He supervises the exploration activities on all the company’s projects in South Korea, including operations at Sangdong and Chongyang (both tungsten-molybdenum mines), Ogchon (uranium mine), Taebaek (base metals) and the Muguk and Gasado gold projects.
The role involves strategic long-term planning, generating projects, planning and budgeting and overseeing the execution of exploration programs, permitting and dealing with the government, recruitment of staff, logistics, capital raising and promotion of the company.
How do you become a vice-president of exploration?
Before becoming vice-president, Sennitt spent his 27-year-long career working in the field as an exploration geologist, using sophisticated technology to gather and interpret data to locate subsurface mineral deposits.
“I have spent all my time in the field exploring for gold, copper, uranium, industrial minerals and now tungsten-molybdenum. I started out as a field assistant, then junior geologist, project geologist, chief geologist and now vice-president and executive director.”
What do you like about your job?
Sennitt loves the satisfaction of having recruited and led an exploration team of 25, who have ‘re-discovered’ the world’s largest tungsten deposit. Because Orient Minerals is the only western mining company with operations in South Korea, Chris feels his team stands at the top of the mineral exploration industry for the country.
“It’s very hard to describe the feeling that this all gives me, but it gives me great satisfaction and certainly drives, enriches and nurtures me.”
What are the challenges of your role?
As an exploration geologist, Sennitt says he has faced the adversity of living in completely different cultures in very basic living conditions, and in work environments with hostile local populations.
“I have overcome them by keeping busy in hard physical and mental work, dreaming of finding the next ore body or of riches round the corner. Most of the challenges are dealing with government agencies to permit mining operations. I engage these agencies with my staff to try to work with and get a successful outcome.”
What is it like working in South Korea?
Sennitt says he’s amazed by the South Korean people’s ‘just do it’ attitude to work.
“Without this, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve things as quickly as we have in this country over a ten-month period from inception. That would normally take four years to evolve.”
Any advice for aspiring exploration geologists?
Sennitt advises to be prepared for hard physical work, and demanding situations away from home for indefinite periods of time. And while the personal and professional rewards might seem to take forever to come around – when they do, the feeling is ‘gold’.
“It takes personal sacrifice to find rewards that seem to take forever to arrive on one’s doorstep, but the wait is worth it. The industry is very cyclic and dynamic in nature. It changes very quickly – one minute you are on top, the next you could be looking for work. You need to save when the good times roll so you can survive in the grim times.”