Twenty-three of Canada’s best and brightest geoscience students converged on Sudbury for two weeks in May to participate in the Prospectors and Development Association of Canada’s (PDAC) first annual Student-Industry Mineral Exploration Workshop.
The students participated in seminars on exploration techniques, mineral deposits, geophysics, geochemistry, regulatory requirements, environmental health and safety and corporate social responsibility. They also went on field trips in Sudbury, Timmins and Rouyn-Noranda.
Several social events were also held to introduce the students to geologists in the Sudbury mining camp.
The third and fourth-year students were nominated by their respective schools.
Organized by the PDAC’s student affairs committee, the all-expenses paid experience is designed to promote careers in the mineral exploration industry and will be held annually, said Scott Jobin-Bevans, co-chair of the PDAC’s student affairs committee.
“We were brainstorming about ways to address the human resources problem that is facing the industry and one of the ideas was to put on a workshop for a couple of weeks and invite geoscience students from across the country to give them some exposure to the mining industry.”
The petroleum industry organizes a similar event every year in Calgary and it tends to entice students into the petroleum industry, said Jobin-Bevans.
“The petroleum industry has an unfair advantage because it’s less cyclical than the mining industry, but now that we’re in the midst of a 30-year supercycle, it has really hit home that we don’t have the people we need to replace our retiring geologists.”
Sudbury was selected, he said, because it’s the ideal location, offering access to underground and open pit mines in northeastern Ontario and northwestern Quebec.
Jobin-Bevans, managing director of Caracle Creek International Consulting, employs 50 geoscientists worldwide, “but we could use 75 right now,” he said.
“It’s pretty hard to find people, especially seasoned geologists, because a lot of them left the industry five years ago when there wasn’t much work. As frustrating as it is, it’s nice to see geologists in the driver’s seat for a change.”
Canada, he said, has a great system for financing mineral exploration, but money alone doesn’t lead to the discovery of new deposits, he said.
“When you look at some of the stats, we are in big trouble. The decline in base metal discovery rates is quite frightening. Finding the personnel to make the discoveries is the problem, not money.”