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For some, mining is associated with a preconceived notion that it is a dirty, lowtech industry. The Canadian Institute of Mining’s (CIM) Northern Gateway Branch in North Bay is working to change that misconception.
“We tried so many things over the years to get a hold of young people and let them know what the industry is really about,” said chair Tom Palangio. “We went to the schools to explain what mining was, and we even rented buses and got whole classrooms out on field trips.”
For the past few years, the branch has been financially supporting the teachers’ mining tour, a week-long conference organized by the Ontario Mining Association and held at the Canadian Ecology Centre in Mattawa every summer.
During the week, teachers learn about mineral exploration, mine development, geology and sectors of the economy supported by mining directly and indirectly. Along with hands-on training through workshops, the teachers have an opportunity to see mining operations, such as visiting operations in Sudbury and mining manufacturing facilities in North Bay.
“The teachers’ mining tour seems to be the most effective way of reaching young people. The teachers don’t think of mining as robotics, geomechanics and all the other sciences involved,” he said. “When we bring them to Sudbury, they see the technology we use.”
In February, the branch held one of two fundraisers it organizes annually. A social mixer, which had a silent auction, was well attended, and it provides an opportunity for networking.
In the fall, a golf tournament is held. In addition to the teacher mining tour, the branch also provides scholarships and bursaries for those choosing a career in the mining field.
Over the years, Palangio said it has been hard getting young people interested in the industry.
“People operating drills these days, they have a joy stick. Imagine getting paid more than $100,000 a year to play this ‘video game.’ But that is the kind of technology that is part of what mining is,” he said. “The salaries in the industry are exceptional, working conditions are great, and so is the safety record. “Sometimes the industry has to look at immigration to fill the jobs because our own children don’t realize what the potential is with those jobs.”
The branch has a solid membership, despite not having any mines in the immediate area.
“In smaller places, where a mine is the main employer, the CIM becomes the social fabric of the community. But North Bay is different. North Bay has all kinds of people who develop mines. Some of the best in the world are here,” Palangio said.
If someone had to sole source a mine, in any place in the world, it could be done from North Bay. “Whether you are a diamond driller, developing or making explosives, or manufacturing equipment, you can do it from here. It’s the only place in the world that I know of where you have all that expertise, which is truly unique,” he said. “The majority of people don’t know that about their city.”
The branch holds monthly meetings and brings in guest speakers. It also supports the Sudbury and Area Mining Supply and Services Association (SAMSSA).
“People are starting to recognize us for our expertise,” Palangio said. “And mining is sustainable. At some point in time the ore is gone, but the sustainability in mining is the expertise. You develop that and it is a viable commodity, anywhere in the world. We have that here.”
The other members of the executive include Brenda Patterson-Mack, Bob Gibson, Roy Slack, Josh DeBenedet, George Flumerfelt, and Nathalie Bester.