March/April 2010

Future industry leaders receive Cameco scholarships

Three uranium industry prospects from UBC claim their rewards

By M. Eisner

For the second year in a row, three University of British Columbia (UBC) mining engineering students have each won a Cameco Mine and Mineral Process North American Engineering $5,000 Scholarship. Applicants were judged for academic achievement and a commitment to a career in the uranium and nuclear energy industry.

Kyle Buckoll, 20, in his third year at UBC, grew up east of Vancouver. When he first entered university, he wasn’t sure what kind of engineering he would study, but knew he wanted to integrate office work with fieldwork. “Mining really offered a dynamic field that involved many aspects of engineering that I liked and it seemed like a great fit for myself,” he says.

Last year, Buckoll was on a work term in Lanigan, Saskatchewan, which has a population of about 1,000 people. “There was bit of a culture shock at first,” he recalls. “It was really tough not knowing anyone.” However, when he became involved in local sports, he made friends and discovered that “whatever you put into a small town, you get out of the town — I had a great time there.”

In Lanigan, Buckoll worked for PotashCorp on a variety of jobs, including ventilation and a mix of rock mechanics and mine planning. This summer, he has signed up to work at Cameco’s McArthur River operation, using Autocad and working on the future development of the mine.

In five years Buckoll says he hopes to be involved in an EIT development program “that will give me some solid operational experience, which will help me develop as a young engineer. After that I want to get involved in the economics of mining.”

Ian Morrison, also 20, is studying mining engineering at UBC’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering. He says he was not sure if he would win the scholarship, but “I hoped through my essay I had effectively conveyed my interest in the uranium industry,” says Morrison.

Heading into his first year, mining was the last discipline Morrison thought about. He says he was sure he would go into mechanical or civil engineering; however, a presentation by the mining department changed his mind. “Mining just seemed so much more exciting and interesting than any of the other options, so I decided to study it,” he says.

Morrison has worked on Teck Coal’s Cardinal River Operations near Hinton, Alberta, and likes the exciting challenges of a work site. “From rock mechanics to maintenance to weather, no other industry has to consider so many influences,” he says. “It’s a very unique, interesting and challenging industry.” After experiencing the mining side of the industry last summer, Morrison will be conducting potash and oil sands porcessing research this coming one.

Brad St. Pierre, a 21-year-old native of Black Creek, British Columbia, says he felt fairly confident he would win again this year. “The reason I was so confident was that between last year’s scholarship and this year’s application, I had improved my GPA, obtained eight months work experience at Teck Coal and will be working at Cameco’s McArthur River Operation this summer.”

St. Pierre was first enrolled in the honours civil engineering program at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. “Although I enjoyed the program, after one year I decided to transfer to UBC,” he says. “I made the choice to study mining engineering and have never looked back.”

He says mining is filled with challenges, from the everyday running of the operation to bringing people from different social and educational backgrounds together to obtain positive results. However, he adds that the most significant challenge is changing the public’s perception of mining. “In the public eye, mines are polluters of the environment, destroyers of land and disrupters of social systems,” St. Pierre explains. “Although mining hasn’t been the most responsible industry in the past, they have been making tremendous strides towards sustainability in all areas.”

Looking forward, he would “like to work for a company in various roles in an attempt to understand an array of responsibilities before choosing a definite direction.”

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