Every year, the students in Laval University’s Mining, Metallurgy and Materials Engineering Department organize a multi-day trip to Abitibi to visit mining companies that are generous enough to play host to a group of students, giving them a tour of their site infrastructures and various operations. The main goal of the trip is to provide the undergraduate students with a glimpse of the realities of the field.
The experience was as much fun as it was enriching, and it provided information on many aspects of the mining industry. This year, the tour included: IAMGOLD’s Westwood Project, located at the Doyon Mine; Agnico-Eagle’s Goldex Mine; and Osisko’s Canadian Malartic project.
On the first day, the group of 25 students, along with our department head, Jacek Paraszczak, made its way to IAMGOLD’s Westwood project where a shaft was sunk using a huge boring machine and a headframe was under construction. This is a project that many skeptics thought impossible, yet it is now well advanced. As half of our group went down the Warrenmac ramp, the other group visited the surface facilities; then they traded places. This project enabled us to see the various problems and constraints that can arise when starting up a new mine.
In the afternoon, we learned about the inner workings of a processing plant during a visit to Doyon Mine’s concentrator. During this leg of the tour, four lucky students were picked to go down into the shaft that was being sunk and were able to observe the work being done with a Galloway. This was a very rare opportunity that was greatly appreciated.
The next day we went underground at the Goldex Mine; it was a special moment for those of us who were heading down in a cage for the first time. The day’s program included a tour of the garage and various warehouses, followed by a visit to the crusher room and a longhole stope, where drilling operations were in full swing. We even got to see the giant jaw crusher before heading back up to the surface. The Goldex facility uses a totally different mining method than other mines, as well as cutting-edge equipment.
Later, we visited the relatively new processing plant — how different it was to see a plant where nothing has been added after the fact that would make the pulp network more complex. The facility is almost completely automated and as such, the operators must keep their eyes peeled on several screens to make sure that operations are proceeding smoothly. Finally, before we left, we had a chance to see the large friction winch control room, and to go up to the top of the headframe for a first-hand look at its operation.
The last day started with a bus tour of Osisko’s Canadian Malartic project where we were able to travel alongside 250-tonne trucks — and take a few snapshots — before going to see the huge electric shovel. Finally, as the ultimate ending to a great three-day trip, we were treated to the “noon blast” (approximately 25,000 tonnes!) — a “small” blast according to the Osisko folks, but it was amazing nonetheless.
This year’s trip was made possible thanks to contributions by IAMGOLD, Agnico-Eagle, Osisko, MISA and CIM. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll do it again next year!