Back to Resourceful November 2021

Applauding a career built in North West Queensland’s rich mineral province

Over her 25-year mining career, the active pursuit of improving and sustaining safety performance has been a core value for Queensland Metals’ Maryann Wipaki, who has received the highest award for Australian women in resources.

Maryann, who is Queensland Metals’ General Manager for Health, Safety, Environment and Community (HSEC), claimed the title of Dyno Nobel Exceptional Woman in Australian Resources at the BHP 2021 Women in Resources National Awards held on 15 November.

The award recognises her strong advocacy of the important role the mining industry plays in Queensland and her commitment to the safety of the workforce as a member of the Queensland Mining Safety and Health Advisory Committee.

The annual Women in Resources National Awards, hosted by the Minerals Council of Australia, celebrate the achievements of women in resources and demonstrate the diverse and highly-skilled careers available to women in the sector.

Maryann attending the launch of the Mount Isa PCYC infrastructure upgrade made possible by a $205,000 Glencore grant in 2020.

Earlier this year, Maryann was named the 2021 Exceptional Woman in Queensland Resources at the QRC/WIMARQ Resources Awards for Women and recognised for her exceptional achievement in the resources sector, including outstanding leadership, overcoming barriers and contributing to resource communities.

Maryann says it’s an honour to receive the national award.

“I feel very humbled to be recognised for this prestigious award when there are so many accomplished women in the Australian mining industry. I would like to congratulate all the finalists, I am extremely proud to be representing Queensland and the north-west.

“I’m thrilled to accept the award and excited to be representing the growing number of women in the industry who continue to make a real impact. These awards are important to showcase the amazing contribution women are making in the resources sector and to highlight their career successes,” Maryann says.

Glencore’s Queensland Metals Chief Operating Officer, Matt O’Neill, says Maryann’s contributions have been significant.

“Maryann manages a substantial portfolio with diverse and complex responsibilities. In particular, her extensive knowledge and experience on health and safety has seen her invited onto various expert working groups not only within Glencore but also for government.”

Maryann Wipaki and Mr Ian MacFarlane, QRC Chief Executive at the 2021 QRC/WIMARQ Resources Awards for Women.

As the General Manager for HSEC, maintaining the operation's social license to operate is fundamental to Maryann’s role and a source of great passion and pride.

"Living and working in North West Queensland, she has a strong commitment to ensuring the community is a safe and vibrant place to live," Matt says.

Take a closer look at Maryann’s story.

Maryann grew up in Cloncurry, a small country town in North West Queensland’s mining and pastoral region. It was here, surrounded by her large extended family, that she became accustomed to hard work helping with fencing, feeding and mustering cattle, and developing a strong work ethic and core values that would give her the determination to succeed in both her personal and work life.

Maryann’s inspirational mining career began at Mount Isa Mines’ underground copper mine as a Document Writer and Trainer. She soon moved into safety where she was one of a small group of people to develop the first safety and health management system for Mount Isa Mines.

This was the start of a momentous step-change for safety in mining, coinciding with the introduction of new mining legislation in Queensland that influenced and cemented her career path.

Maryann was one of three Safety Advisors for Mount Isa Mines, working across the life-cycle of mining, documenting the processes for Mount Isa Mines’ safety and health management system.

2019 International Women’s Day Breakfast. Left to right: Maryann Wipaki, Fiona Pascoe, former Mount Isa Mayor Joyce McCulloch, Jason Jones and Leanne Ryder.
Maryann with Kate du Preez, Queensland Safety Commissioner and Good Shepherd Catholic College students at Glencore’s 2018 International Women’s Day Breakfast.

In the mid-1990s, few women worked underground and Maryann soon realised the only way to be successful working in mining was to get her hands dirty.

“Respect doesn’t come with title or gender, I needed to earn and harness respect. I saw it as an opportunity to prove my capabilities and help gain a higher trust of women within the workforce,” Maryann says.

Showing considerable potential, she became Superintendent accountable for safety, health, hygiene and training in 2003 and in 2006, was appointed Safety and Health Manager for North Queensland. Maryann’s portfolio further expanded when she became Manager of Health, Safety, Environment and Community for North Queensland.

Over the course of the next few years her accountabilities increased substantially when, in 2017, she was appointed General Manager of HSEC.

As a female mining executive, Maryann is passionate about building diversity and encouraging women to join the industry. She has been a member of the QRC Women in Mining Mentoring Program for many years and was part of a team that developed the QRC Women in Mining and Resources Queensland (WIMARQ) chapter in the north-west. She also supports Glencore’s Girls for Mining and Mentoring program.

Maryann has spent over 25 years improving and sustaining safety in the Queensland mining industry. Listen to Maryann's story.

“My ambition is to contribute to equality for all people within the resources sector, based on their achievements, experience and skills, and continue to have diversity prevalent in all conversations,” Maryann says.

“I work with incredibly talented and experienced people and aim to provide support and guidance, and create a culture that allows them to succeed. If they succeed, our business succeeds.”

Maryann says with pride that 50% of her team are female and 47% are in leadership roles.

“Diversity is not about making popular headlines or simply addressing the standard diversity requirements − it needs to be part of the pulse of the organisation at all levels and conversations.”

“I believe culture is borne and nurtured by the people and leaders within it. It’s about our beliefs, symbols and messages, and how these translate to everyday work and life.”

Maryann’s contribution to the mining industry and regional communities where she lives has been remarkable. Attaining the Exceptional Woman in Australian Resources award is testament to her passion and commitment to the sector and to building a compelling reputation for women in resources at all levels.