Eagle Mine’s general manager briefs Econ Club

MARIUZZA

MARQUETTE — Ishpeming native Kristen Mariuzza briefed the Economic Club of Marquette County Monday night on her background and how she got to where she is now as general manager of Eagle Mine.

Eagle Mine is a subsidiary of Toronto-based Lundin Mining Corp. and one of the only primary nickel mines in the U.S. The company announced the appointment of Mariuzza as general manager in September 2017. She was formerly the mine’s health, safety, environment and permitting manager.

After graduating from Westwood High School, Mariuzza started her mining career as a Michigan Tech University student working at the Empire Mine in Palmer, both as an environmental intern and then in the pit as a replacement for those on vacation.

“Who would have ever thought that that experience that year would pay off and been so important to me later in my life with the career that I chose,” she said. “It taught me that I can take on those challenges and do those things. And the other thing that it’s given me is credibility in my role today. So when I go out and talk to miners and talk to the maintenance folks or the mill folks, they know that I’ve seen the business through their eyes as well, and that I worked in that environment.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from MTU, Mariuzza developed a passion for leadership in her field. She became a regulator for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, assisting communities with water treatment system engineering and design, and participated in the review of new and innovative treatment technologies that help protect water resources.

Later, she held an integral role on Michigan’s stakeholder advisory board that crafted new mining legislation and became the DEQ Water Division mining specialist. In this position, Mariuzza served on the mining team responsible for reviewing a precedent-setting mine permit application under Michigan’s new mining law.

“In my eyes, I’m just a girl from Ishpeming. A girl who grew up spending my summers on the Dead River Basin, and I still do,” Mariuzza said. “I like to eat cudighis and pasties and Congress pizza. I love hot saunas, especially on a Saturday night listening to Elmer (Aho).”

Mariuzza said she initially had concerns about accepting the job as Eagle Mine’s general manager.

“There are a lot of environmental disasters that happen because of mining, I think we all know that. I honestly believed we could do it right and I wanted to be a part of that changing story,” she said. “I personally believe that we need manufacturing and things like mining. That’s our economic engine. We need those things in our country, but at the same time we need environmental protection, and we have to find where that balance is.”

Mariuzza received a lot of positive feedback from the community after accepting the position. One woman complimented Mariuzza and said her young daughter was inspired that a woman was put in charge of the mine.

“Some people ask me what it’s like to be a woman in charge of a mine in a male-dominated industry, and it’s a really hard conversation to have because it’s different — there are differences, absolutely,” she said. “But sometimes I think that when we talk about it, some women are uncomfortable to bring it up because we don’t want to sound like we’re waving a victim flag. We don’t want to sound like we’re complaining, but we are viewed different. Men view women different and women view women different.

“The only advice I have to give is women don’t try to lead like men. We shouldn’t — we should be leading like women. We look through a different lens, we see things differently and that’s OK because when men and women are both at the table, that’s when we get the broadest perspective of what we’re seeing and that’s where we get the best solutions.”

When asked what “keeps her up at night,” Mariuzza said sometimes it feels like the mine is under a microscope.

“We feel a lot of pressure because we know not everything is going to go the way we want it. So we do our best and will continue to do our best and be transparent when things don’t go the way we thought they would,” she said.

Eagle Mine was Michigan’s first new mine in decades. In 2017, Lundin Mining Corp. requested the DEQ amend Eagle Mine’s Part 632 mining permit and allow the company to finish tunneling to a nearby high-grade nickel and copper deposit called Eagle East, located under state forestland. The mine is close to completing the tunneling project to reach the second ore body, which could extend the mine’s lifespan into 2023.

“We’re almost there,” Mariuzza said. “We’re expecting to bring that to operation by the end of the year.”

Mariuzza said the the Eagle East deposit, which is around 3,000 feet deep, will provide a high-grade ore product — “a better blend that’s better for the mill.”

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.