Cameron McLean - Exploration Manager

CurioCity Careers
22 December 2016

Cameron McLean

Exploration Manager, North American Palladium

I was born/grew up in: Edmonton, Alberta

I now live in: Thunder Bay, Ontario

I completed my training/education at: B.Sc. in Geology at the University of Alberta

Describe what you do at work.

When I graduated with my degree in geology, I worked as a geologist and I spent a lot of my time outside and travelling to different provinces and countries. This often meant working in remote locations and being away from home for long periods at a time. Now as manager I do a lot of office work. While it is a lot more settled and I get to spend more time with my family, I do miss the on-the-ground exploration. There are different benefits and challenges associated with these different roles.

During my workday I work with members of my department to make sure we are operating efficiently and effectively. We have regular technical discussions related to mineral exploration. This usually involves analysing the results of assays, surveys, bore holes, and GIS mapping. For example, we will use specialized software along with geochemistry, statistics and trigonometry to decide the best places to drill our bore holes. Usually we have several underground targets to test and we want to do this most efficient way possible. I also manage our budget to make sure we are spending our funding wisely. I also analyse our financial situation to forecast what we will need in the future and make sure we have staff and materials available when we need them.

I also spend time in the community to make sure we understand the needs and concerns of the community members. Some of my time is spent building positive relationships with local aboriginal groups, government organizations and the Thunder Bay community.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect people’s lives?

It is a given that an exploration geologist’s role is to find new resources. Many of these mineral resources are the primary building material for almost every aspect of our modern society. From transportation, communications, power generation to construction, minerals play a vital role. Specific to our mine, the more resources our exploration team discovers the longer the mine can stay open. This directly impacts a lot of people’s livelihoods.

What motivates you in your career?

I find the most motivating factor is the potential to find a new mineral resource. Exploration geology is like a big treasure hunt and it is exciting that you might be the person to find something that is valuable. This career has also provided me with lots of opportunity to travel. I like traveling around the world and meeting new people. It is also exciting to realize that a discovery can lead to the creation of numerous jobs and contribute to Canada’s economy.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

In school I enjoyed math and science. I took all the science courses I could as I knew I was going to go to university to study science. When I graduated I really didn’t know what I wanted to do other than that. My father knew some people who worked as geologists and I spoke with them about their jobs. They all loved what they did. So I took a course in my first year and attended a geology field school and I was hooked! I got a summer job working in the arctic doing diamond exploration. I loved working outside and went back every summer until I graduated. Then I got a job doing this on a permanent basis. This was perfect for me because I got to be outdoors and to use the geology I had learned in practical ways. When I was young, and before I had children, this was a great life. But after I had children I wanted a more settled job and I gradually moved into management positions.

Over the years I have worked as an exploration geologist with a number of companies. During this time I did various on the job courses and took on different roles. As I learned more about the mining industry I was able to take on leadership and management roles. As a professional geologist I have to complete a minimum number of training hours each year. We do this to maintain our professional skills. I do this by taking courses and attending presentations and seminars. There are always new exploration techniques, mineral discoveries and industry best practices to keep up with. Like all technical roles there is always more to learn.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

When I was younger, I enjoyed sailing, mountain climbing and rock climbing on my time off. Now I enjoy spending time with my family. We go skiing, snowboarding, camping and swimming.

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

Look at what you are interested in and try to identify a career that will satisfy your interests. If you are interested in outdoor activities, hiking and learning about the world we live on then a career as an geologist might work for you. If you can, job shadow people in a variety of different jobs. Like all industries, mining and geology has a wide variety of jobs available within it.

CurioCity Careers

We hope you enjoyed learning about this great STEM career! The information in this career profile was provided by this individual especially for CurioCity. We hope it helped give you a sense of what this type of job is really like.

Let’s Talk Science is pleased to provide you with this information as you explore future career options. Many careers require a background in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Even jobs that don’t use specific STEM concepts on a day-to-day basis benefit from the skills gained through a study of STEM. People with a STEM background are very much in demand by employers across all career sectors. If you would like to learn about more careers that have a STEM connection, visit

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