Small enough to be flexible and big enough to have powerful resources. Johan Högnäs, exploration manager at Kaunis Iron, says he has the perfect employer. “We get to influence our jobs, develop the operation and enjoy work that is truly rewarding.”
Like every other mining company, Kaunis Iron strives to secure new ore assets, making sure such deposits are worth mining and that long-term operational planning for decades to come is possible. Geologists are at the forefront of this work; they are the people who perform the arduous task of painstakingly collecting data and analysing the results.
This is a crucial part of the future of the mining company.
Johan Högnäs is the exploration manager at Kaunis Iron, a position he values greatly, as for him, Kaunis Iron is the dream job for an exploration geologist. In this industry, if you want to work for a company that runs its own projects, there are usually two different kinds of employers for geologists. There are junior exploration companies and the major established mining companies. While the junior companies are flexible and usually offer great freedom, they are often short of resources. The major mining companies have plenty of resources but are often governed by their structures, in which you may only get to do one or a few things within your position at the company. At five years old, not only is Kaunis Iron a young company, it is also just the right size to offer a perfect mix of flexibility and powerful resources. “Here we’re able to do a bit of everything, just like in a junior company. There’s more variety and participation than in larger companies. Here we still get to define our working routines, organise ourselves and improve things.” “It’s what makes the job more exciting. Being able as a team to constantly adapt our work based on the unique knowledge and interests we have as individuals.”
Högnäs feels that all of the geologists in his department have been involved in establishing the exploration strategy: “We get to have a real impact on the future, both our own and the company’s. Becoming the world’s best mine is not just a slogan; we have a great work environment and a fantastic team spirit. We’re a close-knit team; we work fast, pro-actively and help each other all the time. Naturally, if you’re more experienced, you’ll be given a mentoring role.”
Högnäs says that the work is also attractive in concrete terms as there are interesting new projects that have to be examined and the deposits are exciting. To say it’s a treasure hunt is no exaggeration. “Our projects are located in a geologically interesting region which is quite under-explored, so even though our focus is iron, there is also potential for other discoveries in the area, for example gold and copper. Thanks to the battery boom and green transition, metals and minerals that were previously relatively uninteresting have become more desirable in recent years. Because some of these minerals are found right next to our iron ores, such as graphite and magnesium, we’re naturally also looking at how to mine them as a by-product. As I mentioned, we have many irons in the fire – no pun intended – but because the work is interesting and exciting, it never gets onerous!
But what about becoming ‘the world’s best mine’. How does that feel? Isn’t that a bit of a challenge? “It's a bold statement, sure. But I think it's right to set the bar high. If your mind is set on becoming the best you will incorporate that thinking in your everyday work. I think we have all the right ingredients to achieve that goal. And being able to work in a municipality where 95 per cent of the population have a positive attitude toward the mine is not exactly a disadvantage.”
Overview of the operation’s immediate surroundings. The map shows the four planned and existing open-pit mines in Palotieva, Sahavaara, Tapuli Central and Tapuli Northern; the tailings and clarification ponds, and the waste rock dumps.