May 2006

Recognizing hard work and dedication

By A. Nichiporuk

Jonathan Gagné operating a bolting machine at LaRonde mine


Each year, the Canadian Mining and Metallurgical Foundation recognizes academic excellence through the awarding of scholarships. This year’s winner of the Arthur W. Foley scholarship is Jonathan Gagné. The CIM Magazine recently interviewed Gagné and got to know him a little better. You should too.

CIM: Why did you choose to study mining engineering?

JG: Both my grandfathers and my father worked in the asbestos mines and their stories fascinated me. As a teenager, I was intrigued by the gigantic pits and numerous headframes. As I wanted to study sciences and apply them in a fascinating field, mining engineering came to mind.

CIM: You had internships at the LaRonde mine. What were your roles and responsibilities?

JG: During my first internship, I worked as a surveyor and assistant to an engineer, Guy Gosselin, on certain projects. During my second internship at the LaRonde mine, I experienced many of the facets of underground mining. During these four months, I drove scooptrams, acted as a support miner, installed rockbolts, helped the jumbo drill operator, cemented cables, and acted as assistant foreman, etc.

CIM: With a heavy course load, why did you take on the position of president of the Mining Engineering Committee?

JG: When the position of president of the committee became available, and since I was already involved within the student community, I was very interested. Even though this job cannot be compared to one of a company director, it demonstrates the required behaviour one must have when presiding and the responsibilities this entails. I believe this role is more than beneficial to my education; indeed, no course can teach the leadership skills that are needed to head a committee. However, I could not manage it all on my own; we form a team, a family even, with Isabelle Leblanc (vice president) and all the students in the committee, to successfully manage our committee.

CIM: What would you say are the greatest challenges and opportunities for young people in this industry?

JG: First you must be ready to travel, as most mines are located far from the main urban centres. You must also be open to new technologies; even though mining has been around for thousands of years, it is constantly developing and takes advantage of the latest available technology. With gold prices hovering around US$550/ounce, students in mining are indeed lucky, as several mine projects are ramping up and others should start in a few years. This means many jobs for us.

CIM: How do you see your future career in this industry?

JG: University graduates and mining engineers can work in any of the mining industry’s many fields. I believe that my third and fourth internships will allow me to obtain a comprehensive view of mining engineering; I will then be able to see which field suits me the best.

CIM: What would you say to new students starting out their studies in the minerals industry?

JG: First of all, do not rely only on your academic training to excel. The co-op programs offer the possibility of paid industrial internships and it is during those internships that one can get a better idea of the mining field. It is also possible to relate the acquired knowledge to the university courses and thus fully enjoy the training. Secondly, as the mining industry is rather small, it is important to make as many contacts as possible. Talk to the heads of companies during dinners and conferences, and on recruitment days. These social contacts will show your enthusiasm and can open many doors.

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