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Geoscience students introduced to mining industry

June 1, 2009
by Adelle Larmour
In: Exploration with 0 Comments

Become inventive, embrace a situation and roll with the punches.

Keynote speaker Keith Barron, geologist and co-founder of Aurelian Resources Inc., shared these wise words with 24 of Canada’s best and brightest third- and fourth-year undergraduate geoscience students at a May 2nd reception in Sudbury. The gathering and keynote address celebrated the start of the third annual Student-Industry Mineral Exploration Workshop (SIMEW).

Sponsored and organized by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), the two-week hands-on introduction to mineral exploration and mining is an annual event.


More than 50 industry sponsors offered financial and in-kind support to ensure students received an “inside view” of the mineral exploration industry. The two-week workshop provided lectures on stock market financing and corporate responsibility; mine tours in Sudbury, Cobalt and Quebec; hands-on exercises in geophysics, airborne mapping, resource modelling and database handling using 3-D modelling; and most importantly, opportunities to network and prospect for future employment.

Elaine Ellingham, former senior vice president of investor relations with IAMGOLD, spoke to the students about venture capital for mining companies and how it is an important part of the business. She found the students interested and eager to learn anything that would help them plan a career path in mining.


Melissa Anderson, fourth-year geology student from Brandon University in Manitoba, was interested in mineral exploration and networking opportunities.

Jon Rigg, third-year geology student at the University of Waterloo, was hoping to gain some hands-on skills not offered in school.

“I’ve never been to Sudbury,” said Robert Renz, a recent geology graduate from the University of Alberta. “It will be exciting to hear about all the geology in the area.”

Scott Jobin-Bevans, co-chair of the PDAC’s human resources development committee, said many students participating in the symposia held in the past two years received employment afterwards.

“We really stress the skills of networking because a lot of students haven’t been exposed to it,” he said. “It gives them an initial trial run and, hopefully, they leave here feeling more confident.”


The keynote address by Baron offered inspiring and thoughtful words during an economic time Barron described as “the greatest downturn in mining since the Great Depression.”

He related his trials and tribulations as a young geologist seeking employment in the mid-’80s, a period of time when the markets were down and jobs scarce. He experienced a lot of rejection, temporary employment and extensive travel in search of work.

“I wrote to 166 companies in Canada and internationally looking for work,” he said. “I received 131 rejection letters and the rest didn’t respond.”

During that time, he performed graduate work for his PhD, worked at a number of jobs, gained knowledge in a variety of minerals and learned that “if you start to do things for yourself, you get to keep the equity.”

Barron, 47, has worked professionally in 20 countries and has toured mines in approximately 40 countries. He emphasized lateral career movement.

“You have to become more inventive and be willing to go offshore,” he said. “You will not have a job for life. I’ve never had a job for life.”

In fact, in 2001, Barron created his own company, Aurelian Resources Inc. In 2008, Kinross acquired the company and its 13.7 million ounce gold deposit in Ecuador, one of the largest gold discoveries in the past 20 years, for $1.2 billion.

Barron said he put the company together on an idea. He dared to venture into an area where there was virtually no mineral exploration, only local people mining the rivers for visible gold.

By using his experience, knowledge and determination, he eventually found the motherlode now called Fruta del Norte.

“We got to 10 per cent of the showings before Kinross acquired the property,” he said. “They will be mining gold until doomsday.”

Barron is now involved in three projects globally and shows no signs of stopping. He emphasized that there are still major discoveries to be made. Other advice offered was to use good powers of observation, understand geology, learn another language, find a good mentor, learn GIS and GPS mapping technology to help educate the boss and consider a higher degree. There will be disappointments along the way and “you may have to reinvent yourself,” he cautioned.

The two-week symposium concluded with guest speaker Harrison (Jack) Schmitt, astrogeologist, former astronaut and U.S. Senator, who spoke about mining the moon.

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