Geological Science and Engineering

Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering
Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering

Alumni Spotlight: Victoria (Bannister) Yehl 

MSc ‘96

Victoria (Vicki) completed a B.Sc. in Geology at the University of Toronto in 1993 and continued her studies at Queen’s shortly after finishing a field season working for the Ontario Geological Survey. During her Masters studies, Vicki took a year “off” working for Golden Star Resources on diamond and gold exploration in South America, returning with a full draft of her thesis in hand!  Upon completion of Vicki’s M.Sc., she moved westward and has been based out of Vancouver, BC since. Since leaving Queen’s Vicki also completed a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration focused on mining at Simon Fraser University. Vicki is also a practising Professional Geoscientist (P.Geo.) registered with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia.

On a historic mine tour in Ireland

Can you please describe your career’s roles?

After leaving Queen’s, literally the day after my convocation, I joined Cominco Ltd. (now Teck Resources Limited) as a mapping geologist in Canada’s Yukon and continued with Teck for just over twenty years in a wide variety of challenging roles and responsibilities. These roles were in Exploration, Production geology at the Polaris Zn-Pb Mine at 76°N, Exploration Business Development, Corporate Development (aka “New Ventures”), and part of the team that started a new business unit – Energy (Oil sands). Over the years I was able to work on Zinc, Gold, Copper, Diamonds, Oil Sands and project evaluations – what a ride!

Currently, I have just embarked on the exciting new role of Senior Geologist in the Corporate Finance Division of the BC Securities Commission.  I work part of a small team and we conduct analysis and reviews of technical and scientific disclosure providing expert advice to other Commission staff focused on actions to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the BC and Canadian capital markets. That really is a mouthful isn’t?  To me, my new role, is like the other side of project evaluations – the regulatory side – and my job is to be fair and provide guidance in following the appropriate National Instruments. The ultimate goal is to act in the public interest and try and smooth out things that might confuse non-geo’s when it comes to mining and exploration information.

Beyond your “day job” what other roles have you held?

Carrying the Olympic torch in 2010

Over my career to date, I hope that I have contributed to education, exploration, mining and my community through participating as a geologist available to speak at schools in BC’s Lower Mainland through the MineralsED program, participating on the Queen’s Geoscience Advisory council, working with Geoscience BC scholarship award committee, as a past Chair of the Vancouver Mineral Exploration Group (MEG), as a past Chair of AME BC’s Mineral Roundup Conference, and am currently Past-President of the Geological Association of Canada (GAC®) – until the GAC®-MAC conference is held at Queen’s in 2017.  I have also spent many year’s being a volunteer with the on-going “Mining for Miracles” campaign in BC that raises mining from our industry to support BC Children’s Hospital.

What is the greater impact of what you do?

I have always been drawn to participate and give back to my profession and industry – which in turn enhances my continuing development and education. I hope that through some of my volunteer activities and industry participation in various organizations that I have helped people have a better understanding of what geology is and that I have contributed to my own and others continued learning in this dynamic field.

Where in the world has your career in geology taken you?

I have had the great fortune to work all over Canada – coast to coast to coast – doing polar bear dips in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans; the Canadian Arctic is one of my favourite spots in the world for its’ stark beauty.  I’ve also been around the world looking for various commodities (Zinc, Copper, Gold, Diamonds, Oil Sands, Coal & REEs etc.) to places including Mexico, USA, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Argentina, South Africa, Namibia, Germany, England, Ireland (both of them), Finland, France, Hong Kong, and Australia.   

Drillhole spotting in the Artic

What would you say has been the highlight of your career?

It is really difficult to pick just one highlight – but I had a big thrill in 2010 when Teck was a Supporter of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. I was given the opportunity to be a torch bearer and was able to run near Teck’s metallurgical facility in southeastern BC. And a few years before that I was able to help NASA recover a space-telescope that crash landed in the Arctic Islands. And before that I saw giraffes roaming the plains in Africa…there are too many experiences of things I have seen, enjoyed (and eaten!) to pick just one.  A specific work highlight was being part of a team that extended the mine life at the Polaris Zn-Pb mine by a year.

What was your most memorable experience at Queen’s University?

Without a doubt – HOCKEY!  I was the goaltender for the geo-women’s “Tuff Schists” team as soon as I started at Queen’s. This was back in the 90’s when Jock Harty arena was still across the street from the geology department and it was not optional to be doing graduate studies and NOT play hockey.  It is amazing the number of people I was able to play with and still run into today – I also played hockey for another eighteen years after I left Queen’s.

How do you feel your time in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering helped prepare you for your career?

Finding diamonds at the Jericho mine

Tied to both study and hockey, my time at Queen’s was really the beginning of my career-long networking amongst my peers and colleagues. I have been provided with, and accepted many different opportunities that have come through various Queen’s connections. Beyond, the foundation for my professional network the breadth of studies that I was able to participate in at Queen’s really added to my ability to take on assignments that I didn’t know much about but was willing to try because I had basic knowledge that would help me achieve success from my Queen’s days.

What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students?

Say Yes!  Whatever comes your way there is now better way to experience life, culture and continue to enhance your geoscience knowledge than by accepting whatever is offered to you. Move to another country, take on a task in a commodity you aren’t familiar with, learn another language, and most definitely participate in local geoscience organizations as well as things like GAC©, PDAC, CIM, AME BC, etc.

More about Vicki:

When I’m not busy at work or volunteering for some geo-conference somewhere, I have an off-the-grid cabin that I, along with my partner - he’s a geo too but not a Queen’s grad L, are perpetually working on. Twenty plus years of field experience has made us happy to work with generators, water pumps, out houses, boats, and power tools of all sorts and our cabin is our retreat from work.  I’m told we have a gold-bearing porphyry on the island where our cabin is, that is still on my to do list to check out.