February 2014

CIM news from Canada and beyond

Students feel the pressure at National Mining Competition

In just its second year, the National Mining Competition, an undergraduate mining case study contest held in Saskatoon, continues to grow in popularity. This year’s event, held in late-October and early-November, featured 14 groups of future mining professionals from across Canada, along with a team from the United States.

Oleg Shteyner, a fourth-year University of Toronto Lassonde Mineral Engineering student, currently on an internship with Lake Shore Gold, describes his experience as part of U of T’s four-member team:

“The team was presented with three hypothetical gold projects in Nunavut, and we were told to choose the most viable one for a company to develop, if any. We had 36 hours to complete the case before submitting our presentation. The final presentations mimicked presenting to the majority shareholders of the company in question.

“Our engineering instincts told us that none of the projects were actually economically viable, but we ignored them on the basis that we thought we had to sell an idea to be successful in a business competition. We were wrong, as were many other teams. In retrospect, we should have told the hypothetical company that all projects ought to be sold off or put on hold, as the winning team noted. Despite the fact that our team did not win the competition, we were able to produce an excellent ­presentation. (…)

“Overall it was a great experience to learn how to develop an economic feasibility study and present it in an environment that resembled the Dragon’s Den TV show. The practice sessions definitely helped in our case development, as we all got to know each other well enough to work as a high-performance team with tight deadlines. That being said, we still got some relaxing time to network with other delegates and build important connections.”

The team was sponsored by the CIM Toronto Branch, U of T’s civil engineering department, Barrick Gold, Lake Shore Gold, and professor Edward T.C. Spooner.

Going where the action is

Following the success of a one-week field trip last September, which took 12 Université Laval mineral processing students to six different gold mine sites and plants in Quebec, students in the program are hoping to organize another trip this year. The eight-day tour saw the students visit Hecla Mining’s Casa Berardi mill, Glencore’s Horne concentrator and smelter, Iamgold’s Westwood concentrator, Agnico-Eagle’s Laronde and Lapa mines and later its Goldex mill, and finally Osisko’s Canadian Malartic mine, learning about the unique conditions and challenges associated with each operation. “This field trip gave us a good opportunity to see many different operations in the field of mineral processing and to speak with professionals about the advances in gold hydrometallurgy,” said Ahmet Deniz Bas, a PhD student in metallurgical engineering at Université Laval. “This visit may also provide the opportunity to increase the collaboration between our university and the Quebec gold industry.” Although a similar field trip has not yet been formalized as an annual event, Bas said there is a desire to replicate it again this year.

Governor general invites CIM president to Mongolia

At the request of Gov. Gen. David Johnston, CIM president Robert Schafer travelled to Mongolia in October, as part of a small delegation of business and education professionals, and met with the country’s president, prime minister and various cabinet members. The trip focused on three areas: business, education and civil service. “Mongolians certainly want more Canadian-Mongolian trade and investment, and view Canada as a role model for public-private sector relations,” said Schafer, adding that Canada is already a major investor in Mongolia, particularly in mining. “Like Canada, Mongolia sees itself as a country whose economy will grow and prosper based on the development of natural resources.”

Recent pressure on mining companies in Mongolia to increase the royalties they pay to the government, however, has led investors to think twice about developing projects in the country. “That created a lot of uncertainty in the investment world,” said Schafer, noting that “those overtures towards more resource nationalism were probably politically motivated because of the [2013] elections. Hopeful parliamentarians were looking to attract votes by appealing to their national pride through promises to return control of major mining projects to Mongolians, despite large investments by Canadian corporations.”

The Canadian delegation brought forward a request to formalize a foreign investment protection agreement between Canada and Mongolia, so that once companies sign a business agreement, it can only be reopened if both sides are willing to do so. Schafer said a number of Canadian companies had been actively exploring in Mongolia, but due to the government’s tactics, coupled with the global exploration downturn, investment has suffered in recent times. He said the mining world is watching how Mongolia moves forward in discussions with operators that are active in the country. “If it goes positively, the winds will be positive in terms of future investment,” he said.

Mining is a global business

CIM signed a memorandum of understanding late last year with three other mining organizations to create the Global Mineral Professionals Alliance. Under the agreement, CIM will grant members of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM), the U.S.-based Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration Inc. (SME) and the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) visitor status in Canada for one year, meaning they can benefit from the various services and resources available to CIM members. CIM members will also be granted such privileges with those organizations when working in those regions. “Among CIM, SME, AusIMM and SAIMM, this means our members will have broader access to a range of benefits and tools necessary for continuous improvement in professional development,” said Robert Schafer, CIM president.

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