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First female general manager at Kalgoorlie Super Pit promises to shake up status quo

New KCGM General Manager Cecile Thaxter stands at the entrance to the Super Pit gold mine.
Cecile Thaxter is the first female general manager of Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines.

ABC Goldfields-Esperance: Jarrod Lucas

The first woman to run Kalgoorlie's iconic Super Pit has promised to shake up the status quo at Western Australia's most famous gold mine.

Cecile Thaxter officially began as general manager at Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines on Monday, taking charge of more than 1,100 workers and millions of dollars in gold reserves.

Born in Jamaica and educated at Columbia University in New York, Ms Thaxter worked in investment banking prior to shifting into mining, where she worked in various executive roles for Super Pit co-owner Newmont Mining.

As mining companies continue to push for greater female representation in senior roles, she said she was delighted by the accomplishment.

"Not necessarily for the first [woman], but for the second, third and others that come along."

Having most recently managed Newmont's Phoenix/Lone Tree mine in Nevada, Ms Thaxter comes to Kalgoorlie-Boulder at an interesting juncture in the mine's life.

A view of Kalgoorlie's Super Pit from the air.
The Super Pit remains Kalgoorlie-Boulder's biggest employer, with workers pouring the mine's 20 millionth ounce of gold earlier this year.

ABC Goldfields-Esperance: Jarrod Lucas

Workers the key

Born out of Alan Bond's consolidation of Kalgoorlie's "Golden Mile" throughout the 1980s, this year has seen the mine pour its 20 millionth ounce of gold since it opened in 1989.

Fifty per cent of the mine also remains for sale, after a $US1.3 billion, Chinese-backed offer for Barrick Gold's stake collapsed in April.

With ongoing global tensions driving a steady recovery in the gold price, Ms Thaxter said she would look to put the company in the best possible position to exploit it.

"I'm looking forward to challenging the status quo and looking for opportunities to improve," she said.

"You've got to look at it from two perspectives: how you improve the underlying business, and how you look at the exploration side."

Describing the mine's workers as the pit's "bedrock", she said she planned to consult closely on any changes.

"You've got to figure out how to motivate and influence people to go above and beyond," Ms Thaxter said.

"Good people who have a lot of pride in what they do and are very down to earth; it's always fun to work with miners."

New KCGM General Manager Cecile Thaxter and outgoing GM Ian Butler at the entrance to the Super Pit.
Outgoing GM Ian Butler (right) says efforts to discover more gold around the mine look promising.

ABC Goldfields-Esperance: Jarrod Lucas

Looking beyond pit's current expiry date

Uncertainty over the mine's future ownership has also delayed public disclosure of the results of the company's ongoing efforts to find more gold.

The current mine life of the open pit is due to end in 2019, while the combined operation, which includes the Mount Charlotte underground mine, is due to run out of viable gold in 2029.

But heavy drilling and exploration at the pit's edges and southern end could see those dates pushed back further.

Outgoing general manager Ian Butler said the results from that exploration would inform any announcement on the mine's overall lifespan.

"We can see beyond that [2019], but we want to make sure we've gone through the process," Mr Butler said.

"We need those results before we can publicly announce where we might end up, but it's beyond there."

Ms Thaxter said it was an exciting time to be taking on the top job.

"The easiest and best place to find gold is where gold has already been discovered," she said.

"I don't know whether there's a number to it, but I'm looking forward to seeing what the results are in terms of drilling and what we can do."