Laurentian strikes gold with [IAMGOLD] research chair – by Heidi Ulrichsen (Sudbury Northern Life – January 14, 2013)

IAMGOLD donates $1.25M to fund position

Thanks to a $1.25-million donation from IAMGOLD Corporation, Laurentian University’s Bharti School of Engineering will soon host the country’s first research chair in open-pit mining. The research chair is also the first at Laurentian funded entirely by private industry.

IAMGOLD Corporation, a 6,000-employee company with operations in Quebec, West Africa and South America, plans to open an open-pit gold mine at its Côté Gold project south of Gogama in 2017.

The company is looking to spend $1.4 billion to develop the mine, which will employ up to 2,000 people during construction and 400 people once up and running.Given these plans, the company thought it was a good idea to sponsor the research chair, said IAMGOLD CEO Stephen Letwin.

He said the company needs employees trained in the area of open-pit mining and sees the contribution as “an investment in the future.”

“I just can’t tell you how pleased we are to be part of the community and be partners with the school and partners with the region,” Letwin said, speaking to Northern Life on Jan. 14 after the position was announced.

“We’re excited about it.”

The director of the Bharti School of Engineering said most mining in Canada is underground hard-rock mining, but worldwide, about 75 per cent of mines are actually open-pit operations.

The research chair position will add another dimension to the engineering school’s mining expertise, Ramesh Subramanian said. Eventually, Laurentian may even offer an open-pit mining specialization in the mining engineering program, he added.

Laurentian started negotiating with IAMGOLD about the company possibly sponsoring the research chair position in September, Subramanian said.

“So it happened really fast,” he said.

“If this was a relationship, I would be a little careful, because it was moving so fast. Then we saw how serious IAMGOLD was about this. They said, ‘No we want this position here.’”

The person hired as the research chair will look at ways to make open-pit mines safer, more efficient, environmentally sound and socially responsible, he said.
Subramanian now has a daunting task in front of him — recruiting the person to fill this research chair position by the beginning of July.

The ideal candidate will bring in both academic experience and expert knowledge in all aspects of the field, including open-pit design and slope stability, resource estimation, optimization of drilling and blasting and practical application of grade simulation, according to a press release from the university.

“I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy, because we’re looking for a combination of academics and industry experience,” Subramanian said.

“I have a feeling we almost have to go international for the search. We want the right person.”

While IAMGOLD’s contribution is “significant,” what’s most important is the relationship now established between the company and the university, Laurentian president Dominic Giroux said.

“We have a new major company coming in the region that, before even operating the mine, says we believe in Laurentian University,” he said.

“They said, ‘You have something to offer that we need, and here’s something we can offer that you need.’ So this is really a two-way street.”

IAMGOLD’s donation is also part of the university’s The Next 50 campaign. While the university had set a goal of $50 million, Laurentian had already surpassed that goal last fall, raising $63.3 million by October.

Giroux said The Next 50’s grand total will be revealed in March, when the campaign is concluded.

“There’s more announcements to come,” he said.