Lyall Workman headshot


Lyall Workman


Vice President at Barr Engineering Company

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What initially led you to pursue your profession? Why have you stayed in your profession for the past 54 years?‚Äč

My dad worked in iron ore mines and I grew up in mining towns in northern Quebec and Labrador. Although my original degree was in Chemistry, I worked in mine operations supervision after graduating and then returned to university for my mining engineering degrees. I have spent all of my career in the mining industry. The challenges have been interesting and rewarding throughout my career. The mining industry provides so many benefits to society that it has been an honor to be part of it and to have met so many great people who work in this essential industry.

What led you to join SME? For how long have you been a member?

I originally joined while a student in mining engineering and have been a member ever since. I have been a member now for 49 years.

How has being an SME member enhanced or shaped your career?

The networking with a diverse membership has been beneficial. Also, the technology transfer the SME provides for through meetings short courses and publications helps me stay informed and be exposed to new thinking. We always say that the mining industry is a small fraternity but it also encompasses a widespread geography. The society helps me stay connected and be aware of what is happening in mining around the world.

Favorite SME member benefit(s) to take advantage of?

Favorite benefits have been the Annual Conference and Trade Show where I have the opportunity to meet and catch up with many people as well as learn more about recent innovations and directions the industry is heading in. I have also enjoyed serving on various committees over the years.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of your job?

Given the rapid pace of technology change and innovation we are currently experiencing, keeping abreast of these changes is a significant challenge, as is determining which technologies will be most beneficial in given situations. I think one of the biggest challenges the industry faces at this time is how to best use new technologies most effectively to improve efficiency, sustainability, safety and environmental quality.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspects of your job?

Helping clients solve problems and finding new ways to do things that generate improvement. The industry is filled with great people and the opportunity to work alongside many of them is the most rewarding aspect for me.

Who has been key in shaping your career, and how?

Dr. Alan Bauer and Dr. Peter Calder were professors I had in Mining Engineering at Queen’s University and later became my partners when we formed our consulting company. From them I learned so much about engineering, the value of being practical and the satisfaction of finding ways to solve problems. I will always be grateful to them both.

In what ways have you seen the industry change since you first began your career?

The equipment keeps getting bigger. The tonnages moved are much larger in many cases. The regulatory requirements, social license and other public sector compliance factors are much different than 50 years ago. The advent of mine planning computer programs has resulted in big changes in how we design and plan mines.

The increasing emphasis on safety has had many positive benefits. So has the emphasis on reclamation and environmental control. Also a lot of change to jobs in the industry and the skill sets people need to do these jobs. Finally, global warming theory and its effect on the coal industry is something we had no idea of when I first began my career in mining.

Where do you think the industry will take you in the next decade?

My first mining job was as an intern with the Iron Ore Company of Canada in 1962. So I think at this point it will lead me to an enjoyable retirement. Not yet, still a few things to do, but perhaps in a couple of years. However, I suspect I will always find a way to stay in touch with the mining industry.