Nigel Bain: great contributions to mine safety

Chosen by just one vote ahead of David Noon, Vice President, Global Operations & Sales, GroundProbe, nominated for his geotechnical monitoring technology solutions, Nigel Bain is the 2018 inductee into the IM Technology Hall of Fame; safety category. Bain recently retired as Executive Director Nevada with Barrick. When he was Turquoise Ridge General Manager Bain was the 2016 winner of the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals’ Leadership Award.

Turquoise Ridge, an underground operation located in northern Nevada, is situated on terrain that is difficult to mine. The ground is highly fractured and rock quality is poor, making safety a challenge. At one point in its history, the operation was included among a group of Nevada mines known as ‘widow makers’ due to the high number of fatalities that had occurred at them.

Bain became General Manager in mid-2011 and quickly set about revamping the mine’s safety culture. “One of the things you notice about him very quickly is that he maintains a very high field presence,” said Simon Pollard, Safety and Health Superintendent at Turquoise Ridge. “He gets down into the mine, asks questions and treats people with respect. He’s just a very genuine person.”

That authenticity and the fact that Bain so obviously cared for the well-being of his people helped him earn their trust. So when he began to make changes to enhance safety, the workforce understood he had their best interests at heart. “With Nigel it’s never about trying to make the place look good so that he looks good,” Pollard says. “He wants the place to do well because he’s part of our team and he wants the team to do well; safety is just the most important aspect of that.”

One of the bigger changes that Bain has overseen at Turquoise Ridge was the transition from jack leg drills to fully-mechanised mining. Fickle and difficult to handle, the hand-held drills require miners to work directly beside or underneath the rock face—a risky proposition at Turquoise Ridge. Yet the transition, which began several months after Bain became GM, raised concerns. The miners were comfortable with jack legs, enjoyed the challenge of operating them and feared production would suffer if the drills were phased out. Production did indeed suffer initially and Bain encountered some resistance. He never wavered.

“Nigel, like every General Manager, has production pressures,” Pollard says. “But he didn’t bend. I remember him saying, ‘If we give an inch on this, we show that we don’t really care about safety.’ That’s the kind of leader he is. He doesn’t buckle to pressure from above or below, or take the easy way out. He does the hard thing, the right thing.”