Alice Virginia Payne Mining and Mineral Processing

Contributed to mineral and petroleum geology, encouraged women to pursue career in science

The Story

Alice Payne, the eldest of three children, spent much of her youth in Yellowknife with her father, prospecting for minerals and supervising the work at their gold mine. Although her mother, a nurse, supported her daughter’s interests, she wanted Payne to choose a traditional woman’s occupation. Thus, Payne was sent to Havergal College, a school for girls in Toronto. However after graduation, she chose to study Geology, a profession that attracted few women in those days. She was the only female in her graduating class.

In the mid 1960s, women-geologists worked only as lab technicians. But Payne wanted to be a practicing geologist.

Geology is based on field experience. Careers in Geology can be advanced only through solid practical knowledge, but this was not easy to get. When Payne was a student, she was not allowed to take part in geological fieldwork. Permission to go underground was even more difficult to obtain.

In 1962, Payne joined the Geological Survey of Canada where her job was limited to the lab only. That encouraged her to study towards her master’s, but a higher degree did not yield the desired practical experience.

The late 1960s brought more freedom to women in Geology. Payne found short-term projects and often worked for the university.

In 1979, she was hired as an exploration geologist for Gulf Canada Resources in Calgary. As a specialist in hardrock mining, she brought a new approach to the search for oil and gas. She was promoted to supervisor, a rare achievement for a woman. She also worked as a business planner and liabilities manager. In 1995, Dr. Payne retired and formed her own company, Artic Enterprises Limited.

Dr. Payne is a member of the Canadian institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, the Geological Association of Canada, and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. She became the first woman President of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists in 1992. For one year she served as the founding chairman of the Alberta Science and Technology Leadership Awards Foundation. She was a member of the Premier's Council for Science and Technology in Alberta for four years.

In 2000, Dr. Payne published Quin Kola: Tom Payne's Search for Gold, the book she wrote about her father.


About Alice V. Payne Dr. Payne’s short biography from the Petroleum History Society newsletter 2001

Histroy of Alice V. Payne on the webstie for the Association of Profesional Engineers adn Geologists


Who’s Who in Canadian Women

“Alice V. Payne, Mining Geologist” in Framing Our Past: Canadian Women's History in the 20th Century. Cook, Sharon Anne

Image: Alberta Women’s Science Network



The Person

Edmonton, Alberta
Calgary, Alberta
Family Members
  • Spouse: Robert Allin Folinsbee
  • Children: Katherine, Stuart, Ian
Other Interests
Riding horseback, reading books, hunting
Arctic Enterprises Ltd.
  • B.Sc., 1962
  • M.Sc., 1965
  • P.Geol, Honours, 2000
  • (Geology) University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Woman of Distinction Award for Science, Technology the Environment, YWCA Calgary, 1998
  • Member of the Order of Canada, 1997
  • President s Award, Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, 1996
  • Paul Harris Fellowship Award, 1994
  • Canada 125 Medal, 1992
Father, Thomas Payne, prospector and part owner of Ryan Gold Mines in Yellowknife, who took his daughter on field trips and encouraged her to pursue studies in Mining Geology
Last Updated
May 23, 2020

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