Rock Star Bruce Madu: Public sector geologist

Making geology relevant to communities leads to a rewarding career path

by Jillian Clark
Bruce Madu is standing on a rocky mountaintop with a walking stick near Roger’s Pass along the Trans-Canada Highway west of Field, B.C.

Bruce Madu enjoys an alpine hike near Roger’s Pass along the Trans-Canada Highway west of Field, B.C. — Photo courtesy Bruce Madu

As a dedicated public servant, Bruce Madu, vice-president of minerals and mining at Geoscience BC, loves to look at shiny things, learn something new every day and connect the public with the field of geoscience.

Currently, he is involved in the research project of the Roben Jig coal-cleaning technology. “We are trying to discover what is the best geoscience that we can produce,” he said. “We’ve always got a bunch of projects on the go.” His work in the public sector of geoscience allows him to contribute to the whole life of a mine cycle through various projects.

Madu’s interest in geology began when he was young. “I grew up on a farm in the Edmonton area. I always knew that working outside was the thing for me,” he said. “I realized that geology had everything that I wanted. It allows me to be outside, it’s highly intellectual, and most importantly,” he joked, “you get to look for shiny things!”

Although Madu has worked around the world, he admits that he has not travelled as much as other geologists have. “Most of them adopt an Indiana Jones lifestyle travelling to wherever the geology is good,” he said. Instead, he’s focused his attention on “putting people and information together.” His career led Madu to geology in the public sector. “Most of my career has been some form of public service,” he said. “It seemed that was my calling—to work for the people of British Columbia.” Almost 30 years later, he’s still looking for ways to connect the public with geology.

A collaborative position

Madu's current position at Geoscience BC gives him the opportunity to improve geoscience for the public. “It’s not just rocks,” he said. As a well-rounded geologist, he can help impact the industry. “We have to be relevant to the communities that we work in.”

“Geoscience BC offered a unique opportunity to work closely with communities, the exploration sector and First Nations, and to bring projects to them to turn them into reality,” he said. Madu oversees day-to-day management but focuses on project generation, research and connections with communities. “There are researchers out in the field or the laboratory, contractors collecting samples. I spend a lot of time looking for new opportunities,” he said.

Madu stands next to a remnant erosional feature, where the cap rock protects the underlying materials from being eroded away, near Pillar Lake in southern B.C.

Madu stands as a reference point at a remnant erosional feature near Pillar Lake in southern British Columbia. — Photo courtesy Bruce Madu

Geoscience BC’s team and community connections help with project generation, providing insight and ideas, and helping bring ideas to fruition. “We have an interesting collection of people who we work with to make these projects materialize,” he said.

He personally connects with the communities that rely on natural resources to raise their families. “Meeting with First Nations communities and working for advocacy groups,” are some of his duties. Madu works with all types of communities, which he thinks reflects on his own family values. “It gives me an opportunity to participate in building a stronger British Columbia from the families up.”

A rewarding career

Madu encourages other geologists to choose a career path similar to his. “If you go the public service route as I have done, the rewards are plentiful,” he said. “As you move through time, you will build a repertoire of people who really appreciate what you do as a public servant.” For Madu, that includes the prospectors he has known throughout his career. “I recall many of them not being comfortable identifying minerals when I first met them. Here we are 20 years later, and they are fully fluent. I can track that back to when I provided them with some fundamental help.”

At the same time as helping others learn about geology, Madu’s field presents new daily lessons to expand his own knowledge. “It’s a disappointing day when I don’t learn something new,” he said. Even though he spends less time looking at rocks now, he is a well-rounded geologist following the key component of geology: “The thing about being a geologist is that the more you see, the better you are at your job.”

Madu hopes to attract young geologists to the public service side of the industry. “The training of the next generation of geologists is important, and you get the opportunity to do that when you work in a public setting,” he said. “When we have young geologists joining public service, I think they are the luckiest people around because they are going to get exposure to different environments and opportunities that will give them a rich career.” Although they might not see as many places in the world, the opportunity to work with people will help build a unique skill set.

Working in the public service bridges the gap between the public and geology. It makes geology relevant to communities and allows these communities to join the discussion.

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