Joint venture between UBC, SFU and Ecole Polyechnique de Montreal wins $25 million in federal funding
From Vancouver, academics in a new $25-million resource-sector research institute can see how training artisanal miners in Ecuador to use more sustainable practices can lead to better government policies and a more prosperous mining sector.
A pilot project to train small-scale miners in better techniques is one of the initial efforts of the just-launched Canadian International Institute for Resource Extraction and Development, but it is already gaining traction, and in a nutshell sums up what the institute’s job will be.
“Trying to formalize artisanal mining hasn’t worked well,” said Bern Klein, acting executive director of the institute. “You just give someone a piece of paper to do what they’ve always done. But education is transformational.”
Klein said the pilot project capitalizes on research done in the mining school at the University of B.C., which is one of three academic partners in the institute along with Simon Fraser University and Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal.
The institute’s mission, Klein added, is to help national, regional and local governments to leverage mining and resource extraction into long-term, sustainable livelihoods.
In Ecuador, Klein said, the pilot project gets at that mission by teaching miners to use technology that avoids the dangerous use of substances such as mercury and cyanide, substituting healthier and environmentally cleaner methods.
“It helps them be more efficient in the way they operate and that will reflect in policies at the national level in how these countries best manage artisanal mining,” Klein added.
The federal government’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development initiated the institute in 2012, calling for proposals to run the centre that would help developing countries create the legal and regulatory frameworks they need to capitalize on their own resource development.
UBC, SFU and Ecole Polytechnique put in the winning proposal and, in November 2012, were awarded $25 million to begin work on the institute, which is headquartered at UBC.
The academic partners formally launched the centre Wednesday in downtown Vancouver, in conjunction with the Association of Mineral Exploration B.C.’s Mineral Exploration Roundup 2014 conference.
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