I can talk directly to the CEO or the mine manager, there really is no distance between employees and management,” says Natalia Meireles.
Natalia Meireles swapped Brazilian sambas and sunshine for the Kaunisvaara mine. And now she’s planning tomorrow’s mining. “I was a bit scared at first, mining can be so hierarchical and tough, but equality is the boss here. I really enjoy being here.”
She describes how the move to Pajala took place gradually, via training that took her step by step ever further north. First studies in France, then Belgium and finally in Luleå, Sweden.
“Yes indeed, things happened in stages and by the time I got to Luleå University of Technology I knew I really liked Sweden. I was happy. Everything was so well organised. Next I met my husband-to-be, and things became very good indeed,” she laughs.
So in fact you were compelled to stay? “Precisely.” Now she’s been with Kaunis Iron for three years. She works with long-term planning of the mine layout and mine production, so in a way she’s in the mine of the future. “Yes, I suppose you could say that. We’re busy planning the new Sahavaara open-pit mine. But it’s also about putting a good plan together so we can optimise today’s mining in tomorrow’s planning. We mustn’t end up with unrealistic future planning, so we always have to try to create a natural mining process moving forward.”
When Natalia Meireles began working at Kaunis Iron, she was aware that things might be tough – the mining industry has a history as a male domain and this can often result in a very demanding work environment. And a hierarchical chain of command. “But not here, not at all. We get to influence how work is carried out, equality is the rule. We treat each other with respect, and everyone can get involved and enjoy the teamwork.” “I can talk directly to the CEO or the mine manager, there really is no distance between employees and management. We help each other. We have truly great values here.” Her native language is Portuguese, but English works well in a workplace with so many different nationalities, but her Swedish is getting better and better. “Maybe I would have learned Swedish quicker if only everyone here was not so good at English,” she laughs.
She tells us she received great help from her colleagues and the local people in solving all the practicalities a move to Sweden involves. Social security number, bank account… sure, she sometimes feels a bit homesick for Brazil, but there is nothing that really bothers her.
“I miss my family mainly, but I usually travel to Brazil in February and take a little break in the winter to meet my family and enjoy Carnival. In a way, I get the best of both worlds,” she says, smiling happily: “My parents came here for our wedding and were enchanted by everyone who lives here. Dad told me he’s coming here as soon as he retires,” she laughs.
“We treat each other with respect, and everyone can get involved and enjoy the teamwork.”