Sept/Oct 2010

Students embrace industry opportunities

CIM Edmonton Branch scholarships awarded

By Heather Ednie

Cory Huber 

Left to right: Al Brown, senior general manager, mining, Sherritt; Cory Huber; and Mark Plamondon, senior vice-president, coal, Sherritt | Photo courtesy of C. Huber

The CIM Edmonton Branch awards three scholarships to support bright students working towards a career in mining. Two $2,000 scholarships are handed out each spring to third- or fourth-year mining engineering students at the University of Alberta, and a $1,000 scholarship, also awarded in the spring, is open to students pursuing resource-related careers at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT; second year) or the University of Alberta (third year). This year’s winners are already making their mark on Canada’s minerals industry.

The planner

Camrose, Alberta, native Cory Huber (pictured above) is well on his way to his planned career. The mining industry was an obvious choice for him. “It was as easy as finding the career with the largest scale projects, best people and most respected companies in Canada,” he says.

Huber has a focused approach to learning and is using his work-term jobs to complement the skills and knowledge gained at the University of Alberta. To date, his co-op terms have included four months as a CAT 797 operator and another four months as a short-range planner for Syncrude, and this past summer’s job with Sherritt Coal. There, he worked on a project to model the productivity of custom vehicles over various grades of road to determine what their performance is going to be like on a new haul road that is currently under construction. These vehicles feature custom boxes on haul trucks, allowing for a much heavier load than the truck is rated for. “Because these trucks are so unique, the manufacturer doesn’t have charts available that reach these high-tonnage numbers, so I am forced to find a model that works using empirical data from the field, and a little creativity,” he explains.

Together, each of his work terms has formed the foundation on which Huber will build his career. “The most important thing you learn as a heavy equipment operator is patience, as well as a humble understanding of what actually goes on in the field,” he says. “The most important thing you learn as an engineer in terms of planning is communication skills. Being clear and concise, while maintaining consistency, is key.”

Huber’s goal is to push his career towards management, and he vows to do whatever it takes to ensure he will be a competent leader. “This usually involves mastering the jobs of the ones that you must lead,” he adds. “In five years’ time, I hope to have those mastered.”

The learner

Carson SuttonHaving grown up close to the Paintearth Coal Mine near Stettler, Alberta, Carson Sutton was always interested in mining. “I enjoy using my brain to solve practical, real-world problems — that is a major reason I chose the mining industry,” he explains. “I feel like I have accomplished something if I can apply my academic skills to a problem or project and then go into the field and make it happen. I don’t want to sit in an office all day.”

This past summer, Sutton worked with Syncrude’s Mining and Tailings Project Development Team modelling the pour plan for one of the future ponds. “The complexity of tailings has definitely been my biggest challenge yet,” he states. “I first learned the characteristics of the tailings composition and then I went into the field to get a better understanding of the line layout and the pond design. I’m now modelling many different cases to find the optimum plan, and have been working with a team of four trying to learn from their experiences and add some new insight so we can put forward a solid plan to develop the pond.”

The work at Syncrude has taught Sutton how mining engineering applies to projects several years before they are started. He has gained valuable computer skills, allowing him to model projects to make more informed decisions.

Sutton returns to the University of Alberta this fall but is looking forward to graduating so he can gain field experience over the next several years. He aims to work at a mine as a field engineer and live in a rural community. “I want to understand the operational issues and practical problems associated with mining,” he says. “I feel looking at a problem from both the engineering side and operational side is vital for making the best decision possible. Unique mines, like the diamond mines in the territories or the uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan, interest me.”

The problem solver

Kyle Penner A recent graduate from the University of Alberta, Kyle Penner has already gained diverse experiences as only the mining industry offers. With the goal of completing his professional accreditation requirements, he says it is too early in his career to pinpoint exactly where he will be or what he will be doing in the future. He is keeping his options open.

“Mining is a very unique industry,” he says. “In my short career, I’ve worked thousands of feet above and below sea level, mined three very different minerals using very different methods, and come across many diverse and interesting challenges. My favourite part is working through these challenges, using the various tools I’ve gained through my experience, and applying and adapting them to solve new problems.”

Throughout his time at the University of Alberta, Penner has gained valuable knowledge. He spent two eight-month terms with Teck Coal in the Elk Valley — first at Greenhills Mine surveying for four months and then working on special projects, including justifying the purchase of a Caterpillar 24M grader and working with mine planning software; then at Line Creek working as a surveyor and helping in the pit doing layouts, pickups and reconciliations; and finally working in the geology department on a coal recovery project. “I also was fortunate enough to spend some time working on a pilot plant project for exploration bulk sample testing,” he recalls. “The combination of these two projects really let me see in great detail how coal goes from ‘in situ’ through to a finished product.”

His other work term was at Xstrata Copper’s Kidd Mine in Timmins, Ontario. His first time working at an underground operation, he spent the summer in the ventilation department taking surveys, working on drawings and plans, and assisting on various projects.

Having grown up outside of Coaldale, Alberta, Penner has left the province to start his first post-graduation job at PotashCorp’s Rocanville operation in southeast Saskatchewan, where he is currently in a rock mechanics position. “I’m really enjoying it so far, and I’m excited to see where it takes me,” he says. “Beyond that, I’ve recently joined a classic rock/folk band and I’m getting into the small town life in Saskatchewan — although I just cannot bring myself to cheer for the Roughriders.”

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