Faces in Mining: Dr. April Hayward

Superintendent, Environment Ekati Diamond Mine

April Hayward thought she was destined for a life in high-level sciences when she decided it was time for a change. It was a good call. She changed jobs and found a new passion to help make mining cleaner.

“The reality for me was I was in my mid-30s, on an academic path, and realized that there’s probably some alternative,” says Hayward, a biologist -turned-Superintendent, Environment at Ekati Diamond Mine.

Hayward holds a Ph.D. in biology from McMaster University, completed in 2007. She worked as a research scientist and lecturer before joining a private sector environmental consulting firm in Yellowknife in 2011. She discovered that her knowledge of pure science was much needed in the mining industry. “I was really surprised,” she said from her Calgary office. “It became really clear to me that my academic skillset, and the work I’d done on aquatic ecology, was directly transferable to Ekati.” She joined Ekati fulltime in 2016, and now leads the team she was formerly consulting for.

Hayward’s Ph.D. thesis focused on the relationship between water temperature, the microscopic nutrients in the water, and how changes affect tiny water critters and right up the aquatic food chain. The diamond extraction process is among the most benign in all mining, but at the Ekati mine had concerns around the potential effects of changes in nitrogen concentrations. “It was important to understand whether there were any potential consequences,” Hayward says. “It allowed us to start asking questions… what was happening and why, and whether we might need to take actions to mitigate potential effects.

“Six years down the line, we feel very confident that the very small changes we’re seeing… are not likely to affect higher levels,” she says. All of the studies that are carried out in compliance with the mine’s water license are published and shared with colleagues in academia and mining.

As Superintendent, Environment, Hayward is responsible for all aspects of environmental monitoring, compliance, and permitting. The mine also engages with elders and other community members to integrate Traditional Knowledge into best practice, including, for instance, designing roads to facilitate caribou crossings.

“My voice really matters at Dominion Diamond. What I have to say is taken seriously,” says Hayward. “I’m empowered to make decisions that are appropriate for our stakeholders and the environment. That brings me a tremendous amount of job satisfaction.”

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