Teachers' Mining Tour makes a difference environmentally


by Bill Steer

Teachers mining tour

We need the Earth’s resources. Ensuring they will be around for future generations is part of the three core values of the term “sustainability.” Teachers are being exposed to the environmental, economic and social pillars of the term through an innovative professional development program that examines modern mining practices and the unsung realities of the industry.

The Teachers' Mining Tour is all about presenting “informed choices” and “making teachers aware” through first hand experiences. The tour, developed by the Canadian Ecology Centre, one of Canada’s leading environmental education centres, has been running annually for seven years. The CEC invites a group of 25-30 teachers and puts them through a four day dawn to dusk ‘ boot camp’ where they get to visit mines and hear firsthand from industry professionals what the industry is all about.

Teachers from across the country attend fully-sponsored, week-long sessions where they go underground, visit refineries and mills, tour mining manufacturers and make the link between the prospector and the geologist. It is all about the mining community helping a third party NGO teach teachers about what miners do on a daily basis.

Mining Sector Support

The mining sector has stepped up, providing not only sponsorships but diverse venues for the multitude of tour stops. The list of supporters includes: the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM), the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), along with various mining service providers and other non-profit organizations.

As President, Chris Hodgson leads all OMA activities and represents the association publicly.

“We believe teachers play a key role in getting this message out to students. Aside from explaining the mining cycle and the diversity of career options, the mining tour cultivates an understanding of our safety record, our environmental commitment and the strong partnerships we enjoy with local communities and First Nations peoples.”” said Hodgson.

Marc Lauzier is presently Vice President, Operational Support, Canada & US, Goldcorp Canada Ltd. As General Manager of the Hollinger Mine; he offered his mine as a tour destination located within the “city with the heart of gold.”

“This is a great opportunity to demonstrate current mining practices and the entire mining cycle from exploration to mine closure to our educators,” said Lauzier. “It is important that we show that our industry has advanced technologically over the years. We offer jobs that are at least up to par and often more challenging than in many other industries.” He continues, “The goal is to ensure that the teachers talk positively of our great industry in their classrooms so that we can shape students to both consider jobs in the mining industry and to also raise public awareness towards understanding that mining is truly a socially acceptable sustainable business.”

In the Beginning

Two well-known mining executives were instrumental in helping the CEC initiate the inaugural tour. George Flumerfelt is President and CEO of J.S. Redpath Holdings Inc. and Roy Slack is President of Cementation Canada Inc.

“The feedback letters that the teachers write following their participation in the Mining Teachers Tour are full of enthusiasm and excitement about how much they have learned and how well equipped they are to pass on their new found knowledge to their students. The Teachers Mining tour has been an unqualified success by any and all measures,” said Flumerfelt.

“It’s a grassroots approach to giving people the real picture of what mining is all about, through visiting mines and talking to people who are in the industry,” said Slack. “I am proud to say that our local CIM was the first industry supporter of the initiative. The engagement of the teachers has been excellent, I am sure they wish that more of their students were as attentive as they are during these sessions.”

“I didn’t know that!”

Through the program’s post tour feedback the overwhelming response is “I didn’t know that.” Director of Education at the CEC, Laura Kielpinski says, “We know we have accomplished our primary goal of providing a climate for making informed choices through real awareness. Both the elementary and secondary school teachers benefit and most participants originate from urban environments.”

Rob Millard is a 14-year, high school science teacher with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario at Notre Dame Catholic High School in Carleton Place, near Ottawa. By his own volition he says, “I must have rocks in my head.

“I participated in my first Teacher's Mining Tour in 2011. On that tour I was looking for more accurate information on mining to share with my students for Earth and Space and Environmental science. What I found on the tour, changed the way I teach.”

Millard continues, “After seeing Glencore’s Nickel Rim South Mine near Sudbury being constructed and hearing of all the precautions taken to protect the environment and the workers, I realized the view on mining the students get is decades out of date. Armed with all of the information from the wide variety of guest speakers, tours, and teaching resources provided I returned to my classroom with the goal of teaching students about the importance and realities of modern mining.”

Since the first mining tour Millard has incorporated mining topics into nearly every unit he teaches. He says, “I now teach my chemistry units using example minerals and ores from Canadian localities. I have even set up a display of exploration drill core and ore in my classroom that often attracts students I do not teach to wander through my classroom.”

Teaching teachers about modern mining, not through computer screens, but through hands on experiences and informed educators, is an important means of ensuring a sustainable future for the next generation.

Bill Steer is a freelance writer and one of the Canadian Institute of Mining’s ‘Distinguished Lecturers’ for 2015/16; he is also the founder of the Canadian Ecology Centre and the Teachers Mining Tour. He can be reached at wilstonsteer@gmail.com . You can see a three minute video of the tour here: www.canadianecology.ca.