May 2010

Playing hard in Halifax

Students put to the test at the 20th Annual Canadian Mining Games

By C. West

Students puzzle over headframe design.

In a vast gothic dining hall reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School, engineering students and sponsors from across the country sat at tables piled high with lobsters. That was the scene at Dalhousie University in late February when Suncor director Kevin Foley stood to give the opening address to kick off the 20th Annual Canadian Mining Games —  three days of competition and camaraderie.

The games began on February 25 with a career fair hosted by industry sponsors. The technical events began the next morning. Despite what had been a late night for many of the competitors, they showed up in full force for the challenges laid out by Dalhousie’s mineral resource engineering faculty. A pair of students from each school faced off in Dr. Ian Flint’s mineral processing event, which entailed trying  to build an effective and economical flow diagram for a graphite separation. In the next classroom, students fought their way through Dr. John Hill’s notoriously hard mineral ID event, in which he allowed only two minutes to identify each mineral and answer three or four questions about it before the next mineral arrived. Twenty minerals later, the overwhelmed competitors emerged from the room, ready for a break.

Late in the afternoon, Syncrude hosted the Equipment Selection event, judged by Shaun Farrow, planning engineer at Syncrude, and this reporter. Teams of two were given an hour and a half to work through five equipment selection problems related to open pit mining. Two very bright students from Queen’s University emerged victorious. After the grueling events of the day, students and sponsors retired to the Halifax Feast Dinner Theatre for “Cod and Order,” a stimulating “whodunit” set in Glace Bay, Cape Breton.

One might have thought that Friday night’s pub crawl (which was rumoured to have run until 4 a.m.) would have done in some of the competitors, but mining engineers are made of heartier stock than that. Once again, full teams showed up to work hard early Saturday morning, running the Bobcat obstacle course for Equipment Handling and competing in the Mine Rescue event, among others.

Following an afternoon of dodgeball, students returned to the hotel to get cleaned up for the limo ride to Casino Nova Scotia, site of the awards banquet. The team from the University of Alberta claimed first place, with host Dalhousie University placing second and the University of British Columbia third.

This year, CIM sponsored the games, providing financial and in — kind contributions to the organization of the games. Next year’s games will be hosted by the University of Alberta in February.

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