Skills & Knowledge
$2 million McIntosh Scholarship Fund unveiled
The collapse of commodity prices through September and October won’t affect the need to attract youth to the mining industry, claims Scott McIntosh, who unveiled a $2 million scholarship fund for engineering and mining technician students just as the curtain appeared to be falling on a commodity boom that has fueled unprecedented levels of capital spending and raised concerns about a severe skill shortage.
The former president and CEO of McIntosh Engineering brushed off concerns about plummeting commodity prices.
“I have no long-term concerns, ” he said. “In fact, I don’t have any short-term intermediate-term concerns either. I saw some steep ups and downs in my career through the 70s, 80s and 90s, but I think things have changed with China, India, Asia and South America. There is more of a middle class developing around the world that is going to be consuming more, so my opinion is that the fundamentals have changed. Things are going to be different for mining for the long-term and we need to continue to attract people into this industry.”
The $2 million McIntosh Scholarship Fund was established with funds from the recent sale of McIntosh Engineering to Stantec, an Alberta-based company with 9,000 employees and 150 offices around North America.
“I’m a guy who has worked 35 years in the mining industry and gone through the ups and downs,” said McIntosh. “I’ve had a wonderful career and, with this sale, I was in a position to give back.”
Half of the fund will be allocated for distribution in Canada through the Canadian Institute for Mining and Metallurgy, with the other half allocated for scholarships in the U.S.
“Typically, these funds are set up in perpetuity using only the interest, but my feeling was that we need more of an impact now in the industry, so we’re looking at the great majority if not all of the funds being expended over the next five years,” said McIntosh.
Some funds will also be allocated for initiatives aimed at marketing the attractiveness of the industry to young people.
The establishment of the fund was announced October 1st at Science North in Sudbury before an audience of 300 mining executives. Also in attendance were representatives of the city’s three post secondary institutions – Laurentian University, Cambrian College and College Boreal – which will share a $250,000 contribution from the fund.
Keynote speaker and industry icon Jim Redpath, founder of the Redpath Group, said “Underground mining and mining engineering specifically has always been and always will be about people and the qualities and energy they bring to their work. This fund is a great way of shining a bright light on the wonderful opportunities that exist in underground mining and will undoubtedly attract the young talent that the industry most definitely requires to maintain its growth.”
McIntosh Engineering started off as the engineering division of the Redpath Group and was acquired by Scott McIntosh in 1993.
McIntosh graduated with a degree in civil engineering from the University of Arizona, and spent a few years working for underground mines in the U.S. before joining the Redpath Group in 1979.
“My first job out of school was at an underground mine 10,000 feet up in the Rocky Mountains. How cool is that? Then I went to work for Redpath after seeing a company brochure with a photo of Jim Redpath swimming next to an iceberg in Greenland. That’s what the mining world is all about.”
McIntsoh was based in the Philippines in the early 90s and moved to North Bay in 1992 to take over the company’s engineering division. Five years later, Redpath decided to spin it off and McIntosh took the plunge.
“I didn’t buy it because it was making lots of money. It was losing money. It took most everything I owned to buy it.”
At the time of the company’s sale to Stantec in July, McIntosh employed 200 people at its Canadian and American head offices in North Bay and Tempe, Arizona, and at an office in Sudbury, which has grown from one employee in 1993 to 90 employees today.
McIntosh acknowledges that there could be some “glitches” as a result of the recent plunge in commodity prices, but doesn’t foresee any effect on hiring.
“If good people are available, we’re going to look at this as a potential opportunity. Things could change, but right now, we’re still turning down work and struggling to meet the demands of our customers.
“Not long ago, nickel was down around $1.75 a pound and people were worried that Sudbury had a finite life. We had 20 or 30 people in our Sudbury office at the time and my story was the same as it is today. We don’t have to worry because we have people with tremendous mining skills. This is a wonderful place to do business from because we do work on a global basis.”
The current project list includes Xstrata’s Nickel Rim South Mine in Sudbury and Ivanhoe’s Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold operation in Mongolia. The company is busy working on projects in the North West Territories for BHP Billiton’s Ekati Mine, Rio Tinto’s Diavik Mine and De Beers’ Snap Lake operation. Projects in Africa and Indonesia are also under way.
“Any one customer could make a decision at some point (to delay a project), but the fact is, we’ve been turning down work on a weekly basis for a couple of years now and it has been a problem just keeping up with demand,” said McIntosh.
Staff based in Sudbury and North Bay aren’t dependent on any one commodity, he added.
Because the company’s clientele is global, staff based in Northern Ontario can also work on projects in Africa, Australia or South America.
“We’re gearing up now for a job in Australia, so if we have more resources available because nickel is down, we’ll do more work in Australia or we’ll do more work in the potash industry.”
Tagged Africa, Australia, Cambrian College, Canada, copper-gold, De Beers, Diavik Mine, Greater Sudbury, Indonesia, Ivanhoe, Jim Redpath, Laurentian University, McIntosh Engineering, mining scholarships, Mongolia, Nickel Rim South Mine, North Bay, Northern Ontario, Northern Ontario Business, Ontario, Oyu Tolgoi operation, Redpath Group, Rio Tinto, Scott McIntosh, Snap Lake operation, Sudbury, Tempe, University of Arizona, Xstrata Nickel