Mining University Graduate on how he ended up in Germany

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Courtesy of Maxim Vorona, Deputy CEO at MIBRAG Consulting International

Maxim Vorona, a graduate of St. Petersburg Mining University, moved to Germany more than ten years ago. Over these years, he has advanced to the Deputy CEO at MIBRAG Consulting International, part of the Germany-based coal producer MIBRAG.  

“I always wanted to build a career in mining. My father was a chief engineer at the expedition that explored diamond deposits in Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia. They worked at the Lomonosov mine, one of the largest diamond mines in Russia and the world, consisting of, for instance, the V. Grib and Pomorskaya kimberlite pipes. He often let me join him when I was on holidays. And as a teenager, I already knew how a drilling rig works or what the term ‘geological prospecting’ stands for.

In 2002 I entered St. Petersburg Mining University, which even then differed from other Russian universities. It had research labs, agreements with industry-specific companies on internships and work placements. Finally, its graduates had high employability. All these factors combined plus my knowledge and skills earned me the job position I’m in now,” says Maxim.

In his fifth year, the soon-to-be graduate competed for a one-year internship at Freiberg University of Mining and Technology and won. Leaving abroad for internships is a common practice in Russia nowadays, offered by many higher institutions. Back then, the programme, co-funded by the Russian Ministry of Education and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), was gaining momentum. Only one postgraduate student and one undergraduate student were chosen. They went to Saxony, lucky to have been provided with an opportunity to study in Germany and collect data for their theses.

“I indicated that I wanted to study milling machines. Back then, I did not know German and had only English to rely on. I was helped, however. Half a year later, Professor Carsten Drebenstedt, who was lecturing to us, called me in. He is an internationally acclaimed scientist with vast knowledge of open-pit mining, then serving Vice-Rector for Research at Freiberg University of Mining and Technology. He suggested I undertake an internship at Rheinkalk, which I did.

This company is part of the Lhoist Group, the world’s largest producer of lime and dolomite. Lhoist planned to utilise milling machines at one of their deposits because of switching over to an extraction technique not involving blasting. During the next three months, I personally participated in the tests done at the quarry. Upon their completion, I compiled a detailed report, which included data on economic efficiency and technical characteristics, and presented it to the commissioner,” recalls Maxim.

As a result of the Mining University’s student staying in Europe, his studies lasted a year longer than initially expected. This is not unusual in Germany, as well as in many other European countries. Both postgrads and undergrads intentionally look for and readily agree to lengthy internships, typically done abroad. Thereby the future engineers acquire additional competencies and at the same time gather material for research articles.

In contrast to the Russian educational system, the German one favours such an approach. It allows students to be more flexible when deciding which course to take and when to take it. The downside is that many do not complete their master’s degrees until becoming 26-27 years old. 

 

As the internship had come to an end, Maxim returned to St. Petersburg to present his thesis. Shortly after finishing his education at Mining University, he returned to Freiberg – this time, to pursue PhD studies.

Upon graduation, Maxim was approached by several companies. He decided to take his chances on MIBRAG and started as a project manager, gradually moving up the career ladder. By now, he has progressed to the positions of Deputy CEO and Director of Mining.

  

“When I took the job, the corporation needed people with a deep understanding of the market. Aside from being highly qualified engineering specialists, they had to be familiar with trends in the global economy.

My current role is to develop the growth strategy of the business. I also have to ensure that the company will adapt to political or economic changes if they occur. MIBRAG is one of the largest employers in Saxony. And given Germany’s commitment to phasing out the use of coal as an energy source, the level of responsibility is enormous,” notes Maxim.

The Mining University’s graduate rarely visits Russia nowadays. One of the few events he tries to make an exception for is the Russian-German Raw Materials Dialogue, traditionally held in St. Petersburg. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was decided to move it online this year.