March/April 2010

On the road towards a brighter future

Engin Özberk empowers the industry through innovation

By R. Pillo


CIM Distinguished Lecturer Engin Özberk enjoys making changes. As co-chair of the board of directors of the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC), he seeks to shape the minerals industry into a global leader in innovation by engaging industry, universities, and provincial and federal governments towards this common goal. As vice-president of innovation and technology development at uranium producer Cameco Corporation, Özberk and his team are working diligently at creating new technologies that support Cameco’s quest in becoming the dominant nuclear energy company producing uranium fuel and generating clean electricity. His two-fold presentation, “Innovation and uranium mining from a Canadian perspective,” captures the insights and perspectives won from both of these pursuits.

CIM: What are CMIC’s main priorities?

Özberk: CMIC’s priority is to develop a network of academic, government and industry leaders working together to enhance the competitiveness of a responsible Canadian mining industry through excellence in research, innovation, commercialization and education.

CIM: How does CMIC intend to increase this competitive advantage?

Özberk: CMIC will focus on prioritizing and leveraging research efforts through greater collaboration, developing highly qualified people (HQP) to meet the industry’s demand, and strengthening the Canadian mining sector brand for excellence in sustainable development.

CIM: CMIC plans on working with universities to ensure the industry’s supply of HQPs. How so?

Özberk: We are looking at finding ways of sustaining Canada’s existing mining and minerals research programs while strategically developing new ones. Canadian universities need to work together to attract new students and keep them informed after they have graduated through targeted professional development courses.

CIM: You were instrumental in engaging the Government of Saskatchewan, the first provincial government to join and support CMIC in their efforts. Why was this important for you?

Özberk: The substantial amount of work being done and the growth activity taking place in the mining sector in this province makes Saskatchewan very attractive as a potential host for a centre of excellence in mining engineering education and research and development. Sustaining this growth requires technical resources and highly qualified people. One of CMIC’s goals is facilitating the establishment of these new centres with a certain rational and deliberation. Therefore, I believe Saskatchewan playing an active role in CMIC would benefit both the Council and the province.

CIM: In the second part of your lecture, you outline the history of uranium mining and nuclear energy. Why was this aspect important to you?

Özberk: So very little is known about uranium mining, milling and refining, and the nuclear industry – it is not even covered in most mining engineering school curricula. Yet, it is such a great Canadian story of scientific and technical accomplishments. This story has to be told. Innovation and nuclear fuel production are very closely related and there are so many real-life exemplary achievements. I am also proud of my company and our accomplishments; sharing that with CIM members and industry participants gives me great pleasure.

To illustrate the point further, the world’s richest uranium ore bodies are in Northern Saskatchewan; however, they provide certain challenges to mine. We face challenges in every step of the nuclear fuel cycle. Determination, highly qualified skills, innovative solutions and exceptional management practices have succeeded in making those mines profitable and safe. I consider myself privileged to work with such a great team.

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