Jennifer Saunders (Senior Estates and Mineral Planner, East Leake)

After developing a passion for planning and mining, Jennifer Saunders began looking for a role where she could combine her interests. She’s found that at British Gypsum where she oversees planning at our sites, as well as looking into potential future sites and helping preserve the legacy of previous mines.

We caught up with her to find out how she’s getting on and what her plans are for the future.

Tell me about your career at BG so far?

I joined British Gypsum in January 2017 and took on the role of Senior Estates and Mineral Planner. Before that I worked for Leicestershire County Council for more than eight years. My role focuses on three main areas: planning and estate issues for existing mines; assisting and developing new sites; and legacy issues with former mines.

One of my key responsibilities is making planning applications to local councils in order to secure future reserves of gypsum. I also provide advice about the planning process to ensure we comply with the relevant legal requirements. We’re currently evaluating different areas where we know there are gypsum deposits to see if any are suitable for a potential quarry in the future. If we take any sites forward, I’ll be heavily involved in the process of obtaining planning permission to work these.

Why did you choose a career in mining?

It’s been a gradual process, which first started when I undertook a degree in Human Geography. I became aware of the role of planning during my dissertation on city centre living. It was the part of my degree that I enjoyed the most and so I began to look into town planning as a career. This led me to the role at Leicestershire County Council, where I was involved in overseeing the planning requirements of various developments, including many of the county’s quarries.

During my time at the council I had a lot of interactions with different mineral operators. I determined major planning applications, pushed for public and biodiversity enhancements in restoration schemes and conducted site visits to ensure certain planning requirements were being upheld. I was drawn to the large scale of these sites and was interested in the different processes that happen underground to create valuable products and materials. I decided I wanted to specialise in this area and therefore starting looking into roles within the mining and quarrying industry.

How has British Gypsum supported you in terms of training and development opportunities?

There are always training and development opportunities on offer at British Gypsum. In fact, it’s one of the best things about working here. When I first joined the company I identified the areas where I felt I needed the most development and have begun to undertake training programmes to develop my skills in these areas.

Recently, I took over as my department’s safety representative. As part of this new responsibility, I attend various training courses that allow me to fulfil the role effectively. The support from British Gypsum encourages me to step outside of my comfort zone and take on more ambitious projects.

What advice would you give to other women wanting to get into the mining industry?

While it’s true that the industry has been historically male dominated, this is definitely changing and we’re seeing far more women in the sector. I would encourage women interested in the subject to seriously consider it, especially in a welcoming and inclusive company like British Gypsum.

For young women just starting out in their careers, I’d recommend considering an internship or work experience to get an insight into the industry first. This will help you get an idea of what it’s really like and should give you the confidence to move forwards. What’s more, it will give you a good understanding of the range of opportunities on offer before you start.

What is the best thing about working in the Saint-Gobain Group?

There are some really great aspects to working in the Saint-Gobain Group. The company’s approach to operations is really positive and I’ve been impressed with how it handles relations with local communities. In my previous role, I often worked with companies that challenged the rules – so to now work for a company that takes such pride in doing things the right way is fantastic.

Saint-Gobain is constantly striving to improve the way it works and its processes are always being refined. What’s more, it’s a multi-national group, which means there are so many career possibilities for me to explore. Not only are these opportunities on offer, you’re actively encouraged to take them on, which is really refreshing. 

British Gypsum - Jennifer Saunders

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