May 2012

Trailblazer gets recognition

Scholarship winner committed to global excellence

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco

Growing up, Gary Yang, winner of the 2012 André Laplante Memorial Scholarship, would listen to his father – an environmental engineer – talk about the mining industry’s impact on societies and the environment, both the positive and the negative. Those stories were still fresh in his mind when he enrolled at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, four years ago, to pursue a career as an engineer.

There, the Calgary na­tive learned a great deal more, both in the classroom and from his participation in Queen’s University’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, about the mining industry’s ongoing efforts to improve its role as a positive corporate player worldwide. “I was lucky enough to interact with engineers who had experience with corporate responsibility, working with people who’d volunteered overseas and who have seen the positive impact engineers can have on communities,” says Yang. “I learned that problem-solving can take many forms, and with the right approach, outsiders can play a valuable role in creating benefits for the communities they work in. That resonated deeply with me.”

All that got him so excited about the industry that he decided to study mining engineering instead of pursuing his previous dream of being a chemical engineer.

“It’s such a dynamic industry right now, with so much potential to do good things. I really wanted to be part of the change in the mentality behind how mining companies are looking at how they impact the communities they work in,” says Yang. “I’m interested in improvement in such areas as community relationship initiatives, more robust impact/benefit agreements, better social and infrastructure programs, more comprehensive contract negotiations, as well as in the improvements on the technical side. I’d like to be somewhere within the system, reinforcing the positive change I see in the industry today.”

Yang says he is deeply honoured by the award and plans to use the $5,000 he received to travel to Asia this summer. In part, he wants to see the world. But also, he wants to witness the reality he has studied and read about. “I want to go to Southeast Asia, to the less-developed areas, and have more of a grassroots exposure to less-urbanized societies and see what life is like there,” says Yang, who is completing his undergraduate mining engineering degree this spring and has a full-time job lined up with Monitor, an international consulting firm that works with the world’s leading corporations, and government and social sector organizations.

“The job I’m going into isn’t necessarily the most traditional path for mining engineering students, but it’s true to the aspect of mining I am interested in working in,” says Yang. “A lot of Monitor’s clients are mining companies and NGOs, so I’m hoping my intimate knowledge of the mining system will help me deliver more tailored and relevant client services and enable me to help companies of all kinds improve their economic, political interaction models, plans and strategies.”

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