Catherine "Cat" Joyner, M.S., P.E. headshot


Catherine "Cat" Joyner, M.S., P.E.


Owner/Principal at Scratchgravel Mining Services, PLLC

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Years in SME:


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My name is Catherine Joyner; I go by Cat. The reason I go by Cat is because when I had my first mining job out of school; I was underground one day and the miners said “what's your name?” and I said “it's Catherine”, they said “we can't call you Catherine, that's too long”. So one of them one of them said “You should be cat then we can say here kitty, kitty.” So the miners were giving me from the get-go. So, that's how I got my nickname 'Cat' Joyner.

I'm a mining engineer and I do underground mine planning. That's what I've specialized in most of my career I absolutely love it. I'm also on the SME board of directors right now. I'm in my second year on the board absolutely love it. It's been very interesting!

I got into the industry a little bit by accident. I got a degree in physics and didn't really know what I wanted to do when I grew up. After I graduated college, I went to grad school and started in environmental engineering but then I started taking mining courses and the mining courses were so interesting, I decided that's what I wanted to do.

SME really provides a lot of value for me and I'd say the absolute biggest benefit is all the people. All members being able to meet so many different people from so many different backgrounds. To learn about what they're doing and being able to use that information in my own work, and have people I can call to ask questions.
The other thing is, I love the Mining Engineering magazine. I love looking through that magazine when I get it, and I like the paper copy!

The conferences are really a pleasure to attend. There's such a diverse group of technical sessions and over the years they've added divisions like the health and safety division and the environmental division. They add so much to these conferences. To have all those different topics to choose from, and even though I do underground mining engineering, I really enjoy going to some of those sessions that are not in my main area of work because I learn so much.

I would tell my younger self to not be afraid to get involved and not be afraid to ask for what you want. I see a lot of younger kids in SME who have enthusiasm and they really want to be a part of it but they're not sure what to do. I think I was that way too when I first started with SME and then also in my career. Usually, if you ask for something you want, people will try to accommodate if it's a reasonable request. And if you're asking for a volunteer opportunity, people at SME absolutely love that!

I don't know if there's been any one person who has been key in shaping my career. There have been many people over the course of my career that have been very influential. Most of those people are people I see here every single year at the SME conference. When I come back to the conference that's what I'm really looking forward to, is seeing those people who are mentors and role models. Now, at this point in my career they are all very good friends and I always enjoy coming back and catching up with them.

I came into Mining and Exploration division on the Underground unit committee. The last year on that committee I had a rotation on the ME executive committee and it was a fascinating thing to do. I really enjoyed learning the inner workings of the division. I kept coming back to the executive committee meetings even after I was off the committee because I wanted to know what was going on in the division and I wanted to see the people that I had worked with for three or four years. Then they made this change to the way they were doing things in the M&E division and they proposed a new system for getting people on the executive committee. They asked me if I would do another rotation on the executive committee but this time it was a seven year commitment. So I have actually just loved every minute of it. Going through all those chairs on the committee really prepared me for the work that I'm doing with the board now and I'm learning a lot on the board too. It's a never ending learning experience. It's a lot of fun and very rewarding.

What's really hopeful to me is all the all the young people in SME. All the new ideas that are coming in. The way the mining industry is really working to present a better front to the public. We're not just trying to make a better perception of mining we are literally changing the industry from the inside out! I see meetings at the annual meeting where people are talking about how we can be better. How can we be better for the environment? How can we be better socially? How can we be better cleaning up past mistakes? How can we be better about working with more groups of people and showing people that mining really is the foundation of everything in everyone's life?

I think if somebody's interested in volunteering in SME and interested in being on the board eventually, the best place to start is with the divisions because you learn so much going through the divisions. You're on a division committee for about seven years and you learn every nut in bolt of divisions and then by the time you're through those divisions, it actually gives you the confidence that you want to have if you're going on to the board. There's new things to learn on the board too, and it's really a lot of fun. Show up at the executive committee meetings; ask to be involved, you'll get involved. Wanting to be involved in SME has been the thing that has really jump-started my career.

When I first started coming here over 20 years ago, I really didn't know what direction I wanted my career to go. I met people here, got to know people, got to network with people, and those people saw opportunity in me. They saw things in me that I couldn't see in myself. It has really been a wonderful place to find mentors; people who really want to see young people succeed. I think it's still that way today and I'm just really glad that I can be one of those people who is passing on what somebody else did for me.