Downsized…

Job Search Human Resources Recruitment Career Concept

Well crew, I was downsized this summer. Ironically, my last post before this one was about the trouble in the energy industry and how employers in the industry are downsizing. The company I worked for is a uranium mining company and they are having a very difficult time in the current economic climate of the energy and uranium mining industries.

Sometime around May and June, things started getting, shall I say, very uncomfortable at work. My gut was telling me something unpleasant was about to happen soon.

Ultimately, my fears and intuition were accurate and I was sent packing along with approximately 20% of the company. They eliminated almost all of the administrative staff and several folks out at the mine. It was a rough day.

From what I understand, they are now down to a bare bones team to support and operate the mine. It was, in retrospect, something that needed to happen as the company has been struggling for several years hanging on and hoping the market would improve. We had even done earlier Reductions in Force.

Instead, the market continued to decline as the uranium spot price fell. It’s a great company with a lot of great people and I wish them the best and I really hope the market will improve soon!

Enough about my former company and on to the next phase of my life.

So now I’m without a job and looking for work. I’ve never been unemployed in my 32 year career. I knew exactly what I needed to do to find a job but I had never had to actually do it.

After taking a few days to lick my wounds, I brought up my resume, which I’ve been keeping updated every quarter, and wrote a cover letter. When I had these ready, I started my search by contacting several recruiters with whom I’ve worked with in the past. I searched on Linkedin, Indeed, CareerBuilder, and others as well as checking out the career pages of some organizations that interested me. I also contacted my network, who I’ve kept in touch with for years, and let them know my situation and asked them for help.

I was excited to get an interview right away with a tech company in the Denver area. They were looking for somebody with start-up HR experience. I built the HR function from the ground up at my former company so I was a prime candidate. I was thinking how great this would be to land a job within a month! No such luck. I went through the entire interview process and ended up a finalist along with one other candidate but lost out. Dang. Back to the drawing board.

My strategy is to apply to all the Senior HR jobs ranging from SR. HRBP to VP of HR. I’m applying for everything to which I’m qualified in organizations where I think I will be a great fit. I’m very interested in software and tech companies.

My thinking is that the more jobs to which I apply will make my resume and cover letter better as I refine and tailor each to the particular job description highlighting my experience and skills appropriate to that job. I’m also taking every interview in order to improve and refine my phone and face-to-face interviewing skills.

My initial resume and cover letter were modeled after a sample from a podcast that I think very highly of. Unfortunately, after getting only that one interview request out of the first 30 applications (a measly 3% return rate), I decided I needed to completely overhaul and re-tool both documents.

I did some online research and found some samples that caught my eye (key point) and modeled my new resume and cover letter from them. It was like night and day. From the 57 applications I sent out with my newly re-tooled resume and cover letter, I got 11 interviews (an excellent 19.3% return rate)! I kept refining this new version and finally hit on a winner as most of those 11 interview requests came through more recently and six of them are still active.

My philosophy is to simply jump in and start doing before everything is perfect. Before my resume and cover letter are perfect, before the perfect company has a job available, or before the perfect job pops up. If I waited for perfect, I would probably still be waiting. Instead, I learned from my mistakes, made improvements, and I now have six active interviews as of this posting.

I also learned that I’m a strong face-to-face interviewee but was a weak phone interviewee. Unfortunately, the phone interview is the screen for the face-to-face. I did poorly in the first few phone calls and was quickly rejected. So I changed and improved my phone interview technique after doing some research and tried out some new things. This resulted in several face-to-face interview opportunities.

Jumping in before anything was perfect and refining and trying new things until I got positive results are the best advice I can give you.  Don’t be afraid to put out something far from perfect (heck, look at this blog and podcast!). I can tell you the more you do it and work on improving as you receive feedback, the better the end result will be.

It’s a tough slog trying to find a senior level HR job. There are days when I feel depressed but I’m the type of person who has a natural positive and enthusiastic outlook on life. I just keep plugging along, working hard and knowing that I will find the right opportunity.

It keeps me going knowing I will find the organization that will be the right fit for me and for whom I will be the right fit for them.

Trouble in the Energy Industry

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Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Working for an energy company based in Colorado and Wyoming, I pay very close attention to all the employment events that happen in the energy industry.

Sadly, we are currently experiencing a serious downturn in the industry.  Just recently, on 3.31.2016, two separate coal mines in Wyoming laid off a total of 465 people.  Peabody Energy cut 235 employees at their flagship North Antelope Rochelle mine, the largest coal mine in the US, and Arch Coal cut 230 employees at their Black Thunder Mine.

The reason behind the layoffs is due to three things.  First, as in most mining operations, when the price of the commodity is high, operations ramp up and production is increased.  This almost always leads to an over supply in the commodity which brings the price of the commodity down.  Right now, there is an over supply of coal in the US.  The nation’s coal fired power plants currently have approx 95 “days of burn” stockpiled which is the highest level since 2010.  The power plants are saving their coal which is reducing demand and bringing down the price.  Second, cheap natural gas is taking away from the demand for coal.  The coal in Wyoming is competitive with natural gas when gas prices are $2.25 per million BTUs.  Right now gas prices are below $2.oo and are expected to remain there through 2016.  And finally, the unseasonably warm winter has made it difficult, dropping weekly shipments from western US mines to below 7 million tons compared to 10 million tons per week last year at the same time.  Year to date, US coal production is down 30 percent compared to last year.  It all has to do with basic supply and demand economics.

These recent announcements along with a series of other layoffs in Wyoming have impacted the local economy and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

Colorado has also experienced a series of energy industry layoffs but they will be able to better absorb the impact since the Denver area economy is much more diverse that Wyoming’s.  Wyoming, I fear will continue to suffer.

During the summer of 2015, most of the counties in Wyoming had ridiculously low unemployment rates but now, only a few months later, the rates are significantly higher.  Wyoming is the nation’s smallest population and a sizable percentage of that population is in the energy or energy related industry. There isn’t a lot of economic diversity in the state so when the boom is on, everything is wonderful.  But when the bust is on, things get tough.  Unfortunately, I am seeing the beginnings of another bust.

Despite this dire economic news, I have to give strong kudos to Wyoming Governor, Matt Mead who quickly responded to the layoffs by deploying the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Department of Insurance, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, and the Wyoming Community College Commission to help the people in the communities impacted by the layoffs.

These state agencies immediately partnered together and set up temporary community resource centers for the people who were laid off.  They quickly set up centers in Casper, Douglas, and Gillette and were opened from 10-7 on 4/1 through 4/4.  These resource centers were staffed with experts who assisted people with unemployment insurance, job training opportunities, health insurance, and community health services.

In addition, the Department of Workforce Services offices in the same three cities extended their hours to 8-7 on 4/1 through 4/4 where they were available to provide information on unemployment insurance enrollment, job training counseling, job search assistance, and resume preparation.

I love the fact that Governor Mead quickly responded to the situation and did what he could to provide help to all the people who lost their jobs.  I have found that Wyoming has an excellent organization in the Wyoming Workforce Services.  I have worked with these people often and have found them to be very professional and helpful in all of their services.  They are good people who have the best interests of the Wyoming workforce at the top of their priorities.

It’s good to see a state government marshal it’s workforce services so quickly when there is a crisis.  I applaud Governor Mead and all the good folks who work at the agencies for quickly stepping up and trying to help these people out.  I fear many will move out of the state in search of other work but I hope many will be able to find work in Wyoming.  It’s such a small state without the economic diversity of most other states.

We’ll see how this all shakes out and I’ll keep you updated as things continue to develop.

Flextime/Remote Compatability

There is not a week that goes by where I read an article or blog post telling me how important it is to offer flextime/remote work in order to attract the best employees to an organization.

These claims are, of course, all backed up by surveys – usually done to measure the employee’s opinion of flextime. Well of course, a lot of employees will tell you they would love more flextime and be allowed to work from home, who wouldn’t?

I don’t ever recall, however, seeing a survey measuring employer’s opinions of flextime/remote work.

I know there are several employers out there who fully embrace the concept and can make it work, but the vast majority don’t want to go anywhere near it or it simply does not make sense for their operation.   In fact, Best Buy and Yahoo! have recently reversed course and called all hands back to the office. It must not have been produced the results they were promised.  I don’t think flextime/remote work is practical for the most organizations and I don’t think most employees are responsible enough to handle it.

My experience has shown me that the people who can least handle working from home are the ones who want that option the most.   In other words, most jobs and most employees are simply not compatible for flextime/remote work.

Perhaps I’m biased by the industries I am most familiar with, Retail and Mining.  Flextime/remote work is simply not practical for the majority of jobs in these industries.

Personally, I like my core schedule of 8-5, Monday through Friday (although as an exempt professional, I work significantly more than my core schedule!).  I like getting ready for work in the morning and driving to the office.  I enjoy the office environment and working at my office desk and interacting with my fellow employees throughout the day.  I like clearing the decks at the end of the day and driving home.

Know Your Business Part 8: Permits Required to Mine Uranium via ISR

There are six permits – as well as several state and local permits –  required to mine uranium via the ISR method.

1.  Radioactive Materials License –  Granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in Non-Agreement States and through the state in Agreement States.  The NRC considers the ISR process underground milling – not mining – therefore, requiring this license.  It is the most difficult license to acquire since it is the only permit that deals with uranium and radioactivity.  It requires baseline studies, mine design plans, pump tests, Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), and waste disposal plans.

2.  Underground Injection Control (UIC) Permit – Usually granted by a state agency and allows the recovery of uranium using Class III injection wells.  Class III injection wells are used to inject fluids to dissolve uranium and is key to ISR uranium mining.

3.  Mining Permit – Usually granted by a state agency and is the general permit allowing mining operations. Provides baseline water quality, pump test data, and focuses on the mine’s use of the subterranean water.

4.  Deep Disposal Well – Granted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Non-Agreement states or through the Radioactive Materials License in EPA Agreement States.  Its a Class I well used for disposing non-hazardous waste water.  These wells provide a safe way of removing wastes from the surface by isolating them deep below safe drinking water resources.

5.  Well Field Permit – Granted by a state agency.  Each well field is required to be permitted and usually needs two to four quarters of well data before they cam come online.

6.  Aquifer Exemption – Granted by the EPA in Non-Agreement states or through the Radioactive Materials License in EPA Agreement States.  Required if the aquifer is drinking water quality.

7.  State and Local –  State permits can include air quality and surface and groundwater discharge permits.  Local permits can include land use and noise pollution permits.


References for this post:

NRC – Source Material
EPA – Industrial & Municipal Waste Disposal Wells (Class I)
EPA – Mining Wells (Class III)
Dundee Capital Markets – In Situ Recovery – Uranium in the United States

This is re-posted from www.RichBoberg.com

Know Your Business Part 6: The Uranium Market

The uranium market is very different from most other commodity markets.  Instead of uranium being traded in an organized commodity exchange like gold, silver, and copper, it is traded through negotiated contracts most often between a uranium mining company and an electrical utility.

Unlike most other commodities, uranium has only one single significant commercial use – fuel for the world’s 440 operating nuclear reactors.  So there aren’t very many transactions occurring – sometimes only three or four transactions in a week.

There a basically only two uranium price markets, the spot price market and the long term price market.

The Spot Price Market:
The spot market usually applies to a single delivery priced at or near the published spot price and usually account for only about 15-20% of the total market.

Long Term Price Market:
The remaining 80-85% of uranium sales are sold in the long term market.  The long term market is usually structured in multi year contracts that are typically in three to five year terms but can be as long at 10 years.

Investors, accustomed to the other commodity markets,  often look to the spot price when they talk about and consider future sales for a uranium company. They should be looking at the long term sales price instead since it accounts for the vast majority of the market and gives a much more accurate picture of the uranium market.

There are only two weekly uranium price indicators that are accepted by the uranium industry and published by Ux Consulting and Trade Tech.  These two organizations independently monitor, analyze, and report uranium market offers, bids, and transactions. They report their findings weekly and are usually pretty much in sync with each other.  It’s important to note that the prices they report are their best judgment from the data they gather as evidenced from Trade Tech’s definitions of their Spot Price Indicator and Long Term Price Indicator.

The Weekly U3O8 Spot Price Indicator is TradeTech’s judgment of the price at which spot transactions for significant quantities of natural uranium concentrates could be concluded as of the end of each Friday.

The Long-Term Price Indicators for U3O8, Conversion, or SWU are TradeTech’s judgment of the base price at which transactions for long-term delivery of that product or service could be concluded as of the last day of the month, for transactions in which the price at the time of delivery would be an escalation of the base price from a previous point in time.

References for this post:

World Nuclear Association – Uranium Markets
Trade Tech – Uranium Primer – Uranium Contract Pricing
Ux Consutling – About Uranium Prices
Wikipedia – Uranium Market

Know Your Business Part 4: First Four Steps of The Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The nuclear fuel cycle consists of nine stages that are necessary in order to produce electricity from uranium in nuclear power reactors.  The cycle starts with the mining of uranium and eventually ends with nuclear waste disposal.  Today I’m going to summarize the first four steps in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Step 1: Uranium Mining.  I already wrote about uranium in Know Your Business Part 1.  It is actually a very common, mildly radioactive, metal found throughout the world and, in fact, it is just about as common as tin! Kazakhstan, Canada, and Australia are the top producers, in order, of uranium with the US ranking 8th in the world.  Uranium is mined via open pit, underground and through insitu recovery.

Step 2: Uranium Milling. The milling is commonly done near or on location of the uranium mine.  In conventional mining, the mined uranium ore is crushed and chemically treated to separate the uranium   In solution mining, the uranium ions are separated through the ion exchange process.  Uranium oxide U308, a yellow powder called yellow cake, is the result from both milling processes. The uranium concentration in yellow cake is raised to more than 80%.  The yellow cake concentrate is shipped to a conversion facility after milling.

Step 3: ConversionAt the conversion facility, the yellow cake is converted to uranium hexifloride gas (UF6) in order to increase the concentration of the U-235 isotope.  The U-235 isotope is what creates the heat energy released in a nuclear reactor (fission) and is only 0.7% of the total amount of isotopes found in natural mined uranium – the U-238 isotope makes up the remaining 99.3%!  The UF6 gas is drained into large cylinders where it solidifies and then is shipped to an enrichment plant.  The only conversion plant in the US is located in Metropolis, KY.

Step 4: Enrichment.  At the enrichment plant,  the uranium is enriched by introducing the UFinto centrifuges where the heavier isotopes are pushed to the centrifuge walls.  Enrichment increases the proportion of the U-235 isotopes or uranium atoms that can be split by fission to release energy that is used to produce electricity.  There is currently only one enrichment plant operating in the US and is located in Eunice, NM.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I will cover the next five steps of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.

References for this post:

IAEA – The Nuclear Fuel Cycle
USNRC – Stages of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle
USNRC – Uranium Conversion
USNRC – Urnaium Enrichment

This is re-posted from www.RichBoberg.com

Know Your Business Part 3: In Situ Recovery (ISR) Uranium Mining

In situ recovery (ISR) uranium mining (aka in situ leaching and solution mining) is one of the most economical and cost effective techniques of mining uranium in the United States.  ISR mining was developed in Wyoming during the 1960s and has been the primary of mining uranium in the US since that time.  In 2011, the most recent data from the  US Energy Information Administration, the five US ISR mines (Crow Butte, Alta Mesa Project, Hobson ISR Plant/La Palangana, Smith Ranch-Highland Operation, and Willow Creek Project)   produced about 4.1 million pounds of uranium.
ISR is best done in roll front uranium deposits and involves pumping and circulating groundwater mixed with a bicarbonate solution into the ore body through a series of injection wells leaving the ore in the ground and recovering the uranium by dissolving the minerals and pumping the pregnant solution to the surface through production wells (wellfield design will be a future topic), where it is recovered as yellowcake in a processing plant.  
The processing plant of an ISR operation is basically a large water softener. The process of separating the uranium from the pregnant water solution  is called ion exchange.  The processing facility is primarily composed of large tank that hold resin, regenerating water, and pumps to move the water.  Uranium in solution is a negatively charged ion (anion) so the tanks contain anion resin beads.   In the ion exchange process, the uranium-in-solution passes over the resin transferring the uranium onto the tiny plastic resin beads.  While this is happening, the bicarbonate (a negative ion) transfers off the resin and into the water, completing the ion exchange.  With most of the uranium removed, the water is refortified with oxygen and re-injected into the ground repeating the process until most of the uranium has been removed from the deposit.  
Image from World Nuclear Association


References for this post:

Uranium Producers of America – Uranium In Situ Recovery Technology
World Nuclear Association – June 2012 In Situ Leach (ISL) Mining of Uranium
Wikipedia – In-situ leach

This was re-posted from www.Rich.Boberg.com

Know Your Business Part 2: Roll Front Uranium Deposits

This is the second in my “Know Your Business” series where I will discuss what a Roll Front Uranium Deposit is.

Basically, a roll front uranium deposit is found in a permeable and porous sandstone aquifer through which uranium bearing groundwater flows. The deposit bed or channel must be flat or gently dipping and sealed above and below by a non porous mudstone or shale layer. The channel must also be below the water table or in a confined aquifer. Roll front uranium deposits are the usually the best deposits for in-situ mining, which I will discuss in Part 3.

Roll fronts are formed when oxidized groundwater migrates through the porous sandstone aquifer carrying disolved uranium from a source rock location and re-deposits it as a reduced precipitate uraninite. This reduction and oxidation – redox process – is what creates the crescent shaped roll front ore body seen in the illustration and photo.


Sandstone deposits make up about 18% of the world’s uranium resources and are usually at a low to medium grade (0.05 – 0.4% U308) – I will explain grade in a later post. The deposits are usually small to medium size and the main method of mining them are through the in-situ recovery (ISR) mining method which is very economical.

Well, that’s it for Part 2. On to Part 3: In-Situ Recovery Uranium Mining!

Photo courtesy of Power Resources

References for this post:

Wyoming State Geological Survey – The Origin of Uranium Deposits
ICMJ’s Prospecting and Mining Journal – October 2003 – Roll Front Uranium Deposits – Edgar B. Heylmun, PhD
Wikipedia – Uranium
World Nuclear Association – January 2010 – Geology of Uranium Deposits
WMA Minelife – Uranium Roll Fronts

This is re-posted from www.RichBoberg.com

Know Your Business Part 1: Uranium!

In both the HR and IR/PR fields it is important to have a solid understanding of the business you are working in.  Understanding what the line staff is doing to bring in the revenue and profits is critical in helping you do your job better when communicating and your day to day dealings with your fellow employees.  With that in mind, I’m starting a series that explores and explains the business my company is in.

My company is a pre-production junior uranium mining company currently building an in-situ uranium mine in south central Wyoming.  I am going to start this series of  “Know Your Business” at the beginning by discussing what Uranium is.

Uranium was first discovered in 1789 by German Chemist, Martin Klaproth, in the mineral pitchblende aka Uraninite.  He named his discovery after the planet Uranus, which had been discovered by astronomers eight years earlier in 1781.   Uranium is one of the heaviest naturally occurring elements on the periodic table – represented by the symbol U –  and occurs in slightly different forms known as isotopes.  Natural uranium occurs as mostly two isotopes: uranium-238 (U-238) and uranium-235 (U-235).  U-238 accounts for nearly 99% of the Earth’s uranium while U-235 accounts for only about 0.7%.

All radioactive isotopes decay – that’s what makes them radioactive.  U-238 decays at a half-life of 4500 million years which means it is barely radioactive and U-235 decays at a half-life of 704 million years. Geologists theorize that the decay of uranium in the Earth’s mantle is is the main source of heat that keeps the outer core liquid which drives plate tectonics.

There is actually quite a bit of uranium  in the Earth’s crust – its 40 times more abundant than silver and is more plentiful that antimony, tin, cadmium, and mercury.  There is also nearly 4 billion tons of  uranium in the Earth’s oceans.

As far as the actual origins of uranium, I will quote an article written in 2003 by Edgar B. Heylmun, PhD:

It has been demonstrated that most uranium has been derived from the alteration of volcanic ash or tuff. Volcanic ash and tuff are unstable under atmospheric conditions and will eventually alter to clay or mudstone. Upon alteration, uranium will be released into the groundwater. The uraniferous solutions will circulate through permeable beds until a reductant is encountered. Reductants include disseminated pyrite and organic material like plant remains or hydrocarbons, which give off hydrogen sulfide gas as they decompose. Hydrogen sulfide gas is a strong reductant, so uranium will precipitate from solution upon encountering the reducing conditions created by H2S gas. Sometimes, wood, peat, lignite, and hydrocarbons are completely replaced by black uranium oxides, usually as uraninite (pitchblende) or coffinite. Organic trash pockets in sandstone can result in the formation of rich ore bodies.

Well, that’s it for uranium.  I mentioned the first three parts of the “Know Your Business” series in the intro post and there will be others following those that will discuss radioactivity, nuclear politics, nuclear in the media, mining, the nuclear fuel cycle, etc.

References for this post:

This is re-posted from www.RichBoberg.com

Staffing a New Mine From Scratch – Introduction

I think I’m safe claiming that not a lot of HR professionals have been responsible for staffing a new mine from scratch – much less a new uranium mine.  There are currently eight (including ours) uranium mines operating in the United States with the most recent one, before ours, coming on line two years ago in Texas.  When we were finally given the green light to start construction of the mine in October of 2012, I had to start the implementation of the plan I had been working on for four years.  I want to share the steps I took in a multi-part series of posts, starting with this introduction.

It took a lot of work laying important foundations during the four years because there was no HR department when I started.  Everything basically was built from scratch along the way.  There are also not a lot of experienced uranium miners to recruit and hire.  It was a challenging undertaking but that’s what made it rewarding and interesting!

I’m very proud of what we accomplished and want to share it here on Hard Hat HR.  Hopefully you will find it interesting and helpful if and when you need to staff a new and remote start-up operation.  A lot of what we did can be applied to other industries but you will discover much of what we were able to successfully implement will only work in smaller rural communities – “Hard Hat” communities if you will.