November 2008

CIM's Saskatoon Branch works hard and plays hard

By R. Carey and J. Cairns

The CIM Saskatoon Branch was founded in 1965. The original executive members included shaft project engineer Tom Crandell, mine superintendent Bert Mracek and mill superintendent Don McCann. Meetings were first held at The Embers, a nightspot near the present-day Circle Centre Mall. After it burned down around 1968, meetings moved first to Elks Lodge, then to the Delta Bessborough and finally to the Sheraton Cavalier, where we meet today.

We have grown considerably in the last two decades. In the mid-1980s, we had 50 to 80 members. The local mining boom that started in late 2004 helped increase our membership from 160 in 2003-2004 to 250 in 2007-2008.

The branch at play

Initially, our meetings included miners, consultants, salespeople and geologists (who later started their own branch). Since the beginning, our meetings have been popular because they have always included a sumptuous evening meal and an engaging presentation by a guest speaker.

Substance never comes at the cost of style at our branch. Our first Annual Christmas Ball, held in November 1966, was a sellout at $25 per couple and everyone wore tuxedos. CIM past president Jim Popowich chose the stylish setting of a Saskatoon Branch ball to propose to his wife some 40 years ago! The lady, we are delighted to add, accepted his suit.

With such gallantry in our midst, can sportsmanship be far behind? Our first annual golf tournament was held in July 1980. Ray and Joan Pedley ran the tournament, held at the Greenbryre Club, in the early 1980s. John Cairns even videotaped a couple of the early tournaments. One year, unfazed by a howling gale-force wind, Mike Babcock hit a 400-yard drive, going down in branch legend.

Our events would not have been possible without the generosity of the mining industry, vendors and suppliers who never stinted in sponsoring every last detail.

The branch at work

The CIM Saskatoon Branch has given its support to university students because they represent the industry’s future. The branch and the Saskatoon section of the CIM Geological Society each awarded $500 in annual scholarships in the 1980s. More recently, the branch has disbursed up to $6,000 in scholarships in a single year to University of Saskatchewan engineering students. Every March, we hold a Student Night where engineering students are invited to present their fourth-year design projects to our members, who always offer astute feedback.

Over the years, we have hosted a number of important CIM conferences. Our branch played a major role in the CIM Conference and Exhibition 2008 in Edmonton, organizing technical sessions on potash and uranium, and fully guided, comprehensive fly-in tours of PotashCorp’s Cory Division and Cameco’s McArthur River and Key Lake facilities. We are particularly looking forward to hosting the Maintenance Engineering/Mine Operators’ Conference in 2011.

This year, the branch will continue to strive to build value, not only for its members but for its local mining community as well. From the Annual Ball to the Mineral Processing Night, our meetings will provide the latest information while keeping participants well entertained.

With many greenfield potash projects in the works, there will be no shortage of CIM manpower in the area. The future looks bright for the CIM Saskatoon Branch.

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