February 2009

Keeping mining alive in Thetford Mines

Steeped in history, the local CIM branch is assuring continuity through collaboration

By P. Laroche


2009 Scholarship winners with members of the executive committee

Chrysotile asbestos mining began in the Thetford Mines area in 1878. Located approximately 100 kilometres southwest of Quebec, the city of Thetford Mines is one of Canada’s oldest mining camps. At its peak, ten underground and open pit mines were in operation in the region. Today, two chrysotile mines are still operating — one in Thetford Mines and one in Asbestos.

The CIM Thetford Mines Branch was founded around 1902. In June 1979, our branch hosted the Third Open Pit Operators Conference. In August 1988, we hosted the sixth CIM District 2 meeting. The proceeds from these activities were dedicated to the creation of a scholarship fund for college and university-level students in mining, geology and metallurgy.

The leading academic institution in our region, the Cégep de Thetford has a mineral technology department that trains technicians in geology, mining and mineral processing. The Cégep also has a College Centre for the Transfer of Technology, the Centre de Technologie Minérale et de Plasturgie (CTMP). This research centre offers technical services to the mining and plastics industries. These institutions have played a leading role in promoting the mining industry in our area.

In addition to helping local engineers and technicians in the mining sector establish networks, our branch brings together students and teachers in the mineral sector, industrialists, suppliers, equipment manufacturers, prospectors and other industry partners.

For the past 20 years, Thetford Mines and Asbestos have diversified their economy to counter the decline in local mining activity. Thetford Mines has turned its attention to other industries such as plastic processing, metallurgy, engineering, equipment manufacturing, and wood and mineral processing.

In order to ensure the continuity of our branch, we collaborate closely with all parent organizations: the Cégep, the CTMP, the Musée minéralogique et minier, and with our established partners, the mining companies, mine suppliers and the mineral processing industries.

Organizing pertinent activities for our 100 or so members is always a challenge, due to their diverse interests and the fact that they are often involved with many other local organizations. An aging membership represents another challenge for the branch when it comes to renewing its executive committee.

In 2008, we organized a curling tournament and a golf tournament. We also organized four technical conferences, each with 40 to 50 members in attendance. For the past two years, we have publicized our activities through news releases in the local and regional media as well as in CIM Magazine. This initiative increased member participation and attracted new members.

The linguistic barrier is also considered a significant challenge. Because our membership is 99 per cent francophone, presenters are required to speak in French. Several speakers from Polycor, the Cégep, Royal Nickel and Opinaca Mines (Goldcorp) have captivated our audience in the language of Molière.

We are committed to keeping our branch active in the service of the mining and metallurgy industry — a vital part of our local and national economy.

I would like to thank my colleagues François Jacques, Richard Rodrigue and Thomas Coleman from the CIM Thetford Mines Branch executive committee and Jocelyne Vallée of LAB Chrysotile. Without their support, little would be possible.

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