What is it about rocks that relegates them to the netherworld of public consciousness and culture? We sing odes to love, we delight in floral profusion and cleanse ourselves in holy water, but rocks get no respect. Except perhaps in Sudbury, where outcrops and rockcuts punctuate the landscape, they are out of sight and unappreciated. Or so I thought until I received an email from Susan Ioannou inviting us to review her latest collection of verse.
Looking Through Stone: Poems about the Earth, casts a rare but welcome spotlight on the usually ignored inanimate world around us. We were intrigued and not a little overwhelmed by this unexpected celebration of our métier.
As reviewer Andrew Linder astutely points out on Page 18, “There can never be too many tools for hard-rock mining. Why not poetry?” Published by Your Scrivener Press, a Sudbury publishing house owned and operated by Laurentian University English professor Laurence Steven, Looking Through Stone won’t by itself elevate rocks to a more honoured stature, but it is a start.
Also contributing to the renewal of appreciation for mining and minerals are the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s Mining Matters program for schools, and the new Specialist High Skills Mining Major that is being piloted by the Sudbury area’s Rainbow District School Board (see the March 2007 issue of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal).
Aesthetics alone are reason enough to promote an appreciation for rocks, but there is more, much more to hold in awe, from the violent upheavals that have reshaped the Earth to the sophisticated mining and metallurgical processes we use to liberate the nickel, copper, gold and other metals on which we are so dependent.
For a region that has evolved as one of the greatest centres of mining in the world, a respect for mining and minerals is no trivial thing. The shortage of human resources in our industry is a serious concern.
Lamenting the shortage of metallurgists, for example, Phil Thwaites at Xstrata’s Process Support Centre, recalls that his alma mater, the Royal School of Mines, used to accept 60 students every year into its mineral processing program. Today, it no longer exists. Dr. Anis Farrah, interviewed for a story on Page 5, reminds us that Laurentian University recently shut down its Extractive Metallurgy program because of low enrolment.
Reconstituted as an option in a four-year Chemical Engineering program, Metallurgy lives on at Laurentian, but just barely.
Susan Ioannou’s passion for rocks is refreshing. Let’s hope it’s also contagious.