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Geoscience centre unveils expansion plans

May 24, 2013
by Norm Tollinsky
In: News

Kid-friendly exhibits instill interest in mining.

Sudbury’s geoscience centre, Dynamic Earth, is planning a major expansion to better portray modern mining methods.

The proposed $5 million expansion will include the excavation of new underground drifts able to accommodate mobile mining equipment and the development of an outdoor science park.

Dynamic Earth, which is operated under the umbrella of the city’s science centre, Science North, opened 10 years ago in 2003. The 125-seat Atlas Copco Theatre was added in 2007 and, two years later, as a result of a further expansion, Dynamic Earth opened the Xstrata Nickel Gallery and its Rocks-to-Riches exhibit, which takes visitors through the milling, smelting and refining steps employed to process Sudbury’s rich nickel, copper and precious metal ore.

The current underground exhibit space seven stories below surface includes 1,800 feet of drifts, offering visitors a retrospective of the past 125 years of mining.

“Some of the feedback we get from visitors is that we do a good job presenting the history of mining, but our modern mining is not as great as it could be,” said Dynamic Earth director Mia Boiridy. “One of the reasons for that is that we’re a bit limited by the size of our drifts.”

Dynamic Earth is a seasonal attraction that is open from early March to mid-October. It attracts approximately 40,000 visitors a year, although in its opening year and again in 2009, the number of visitors peaked at 60,000. Between 80 and 85 per cent of visitors are from out of town.

“Our role as a science centre is to inform people about the mining industry and to try to change some of the myths and preconceptions that people have about mining,” said Boiridy. “We also try to engage and inspire kids to pursue careers in the industry, and to do that, we really need to focus on what’s new and exciting about mining.

“We need to get away from the idea of the pick and shovel and the dark, dirty image that people have. That story is still important because people need to understand where we’ve come from, but we really need to showcase the modern, high-tech aspects of mining today.”

Dynamic Earth works closely with Sudbury area mining companies and suppliers such as HLS Hard-Line Solutions, Bestech and Maestro Ventilation to enhance the visitor experience. The Caterpillar Command Centre, an Atlas Copco simulator used for training equipment operators and an underground rock breaker teleoperated from surface are some examples of modern mining methods currently on display.

Boiridy has assembled an industry panel consisting of representatives of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association and the city’s mining companies to reinforce the high-tech message through exhibits in the proposed new drifts.

Located in the shadow of Vale’s smelter complex, the 22,000-square foot geoscience centre teaches visitors about the meteor that smashed into the Earth’s crust 1.8 billion years ago to create the Sudbury Basin. The Nickel City Stories theatre is a multi-media experience describing the evolution of Sudbury from the discovery of ore in 1883 to the present. A three-level Explore-a-Mine attraction teaches children through co-operative play what a mine is all about and the centre’s Rockhound Lab features an extensive collection of rocks and minerals.

Kids – and adults – accumulate points for the samples they contribute and use them as currency to purchase items from the collection.

“It’s a great way for kids to start collections,” said Boiridy.

Dynamic Earth management hopes the expanded underground exhibits and outdoor science park will open to the public in April 2016.

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