March/April 2008

Voices from Industry

Getting the word out there

By R. Slack

Mining is a great industry — and one that is greatly misunderstood. The end product of mining significantly enhances the quality of life for all of us. At the same time, the industry recognizes the social and environmental impact that mining has on our communities and, in response, companies have become concerned corporate citizens.

One thing that frustrates me is the media’s emphasis on the negative aspects of mining. The public often sees the worst of the industry in the reporting of sensationalized and isolated events. They certainly deserve to know the positive impact mining has on our society.

Local branches of CIM can play a vital role in painting a more accurate picture of mining; informing the public of its importance as well as the opportunities it offers for young people. The Northern Gateway Branch (based in North Bay, Ontario) has focused on promoting a positive image of the industry to the public and, in particular, to the region’s youth. Although there is no active mining in North Bay proper, the city is well known as a mining services hub and is home to over 60 companies that directly service the Canadian and international mining industry.

In the Northern Gateway Branch, we have carried out a number of initiatives to better inform the public of the positive impact of mining on society. Our focus has been on providing a bit of information, a little fun and, ultimately, a positive impression. Our intention is not to actively recruit young people into the industry, but rather to let them know that there are options in mining. In particular, we want to let them know that mining is a responsible high-tech industry that makes an important contribution to society. We like to think of it as passive recruitment.

By working closely with the North Bay Mining Association, Nipissing University, Canadore College and the school boards, we have been involved in some great programs with local youth. They have included guest speakers and panel discussions for the post-secondary students, Mine Scene Investigation (MSI) at the secondary level, and mining week fun days for the younger students. The technical presentations are first class, but we also mix it up a little with dinner theatre, beer tastings and other social events that focus on attracting a wide range of participants. We are now establishing a lecture program aimed at high school and post-secondary students, in which local industry leaders will speak on a wide variety of topics that are important to our businesses and our communities. We have also begun working with the school board on their co-op and employment initiatives.

Student participation has been great and each year these programs expand. However, an interesting thing has happened along the way. The school board, college and university staff and faculty have learned more about our industry. In fact, they have become so interested that both Nippissing University and Canadore College have representatives on the local CIM branch executive, as does the city of North Bay. Our local elected officials have also shown strong support for what we are doing. The local chamber of commerce and service providers, such as banks, insurance groups and facility and service suppliers, have all become involved.

At the same time, the people in our industry have learned something about our local history and about other companies in the area that are also working hard to support the mining industry. Everyone comes away from these events knowing a little more and maybe feeling proud, and even honoured, to be part of the whole thing. Did I mention we also have fun doing it?

So, if we can reach as many as 1,000 students each year who, in turn, spread the information along to their friends and parents about the special activities they participated in, then we are helping to get the message out to the public that this is an industry that makes a difference in the quality of our lives.

The programs that the Northern Gateway Branch (and all of the local CIM branches) carry out are the result of hard work from volunteers who believe that the public deserves to know the positive aspects of mining. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the CIM volunteers who donate their time — which we all know is at a premium — to promote this industry. Special thanks to the Northern Gateway executive and all the companies that support and participate in everything our branch does. You are making a difference.

Roy Slack is president of Cementation Canada Inc. and the chairman of CIM Northern Gateway Branch.

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