November 2015

Job ready

Greenland school has been training up miners to be ready for this moment

By Kate Sheridan

Special Report: Greenland

Special report cover page
The local school, opened in 2008, offers classroom studies and hands-on equipment training | Courtesy of Greenland School of Minerals and Petroleum/Tove Madsen

Students of the Greenland School of Minerals and Petroleum in Sisimiut have been preparing for a year like this one: as some of Greenland’s promised resource extraction projects finally come to fruition, these students have the chance to put their training to the test.

With True North Gems’ Aappaluttoq Ruby project heading into production, Hudson Resources’ White Mountain mine receiving an exploitation permit and others sites pushing forward, graduates of the school will have opportunities to use their skills at operations on their home turf.

“We cheer for each mine that opens in Greenland, for our students,” said Hans Hinrichsen, the general manager of the school, the only one in Greenland that prepares students for life in the country’s budding mineral extraction industry.

“I think we have 23,000 non-skilled labourers here in Greenland,” said Hinrichsen, “and there is room in the mining industry for non-skilled labour. But they need skilled labour. So we started up this professional apprenticeship program for miner and machine operations. It will raise the skills and potentially raise the salary for these guys.”

Next summer, 15 students will graduate from the school’s four-year apprenticeship program. Since it opened in 2008, the school has also graduated 348 people from its 10-week common core course.

That course teaches basic drilling, blasting and safety topics. Other courses cover diamond core drilling, heavy machine operation and upgrading, and advanced blasting topics. The longer apprenticeship program involves two years of theory courses and two years of practical training.

Hinrichsen said the curriculum models Norwegian training programs and standards, so graduates have the option of pursuing more training in Scandinavian countries. The school was certified as meeting Norwegian standards for machine operator training in 2013.

“It took quite a lot of hard work to build up a new institution for a new industry here in Greenland,” Hinrichsen said, “but we have had help.” He travelled around the world to meet partners to help develop the curriculum, including the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology in Sudbury, Ontario. The school has also collaborated with the government of Nunavut.

At the school, students learn more than their trade. They also learn the language they will need to work in the industry: English. Hinrichsen said he sees the Greenlandic workforce as part of a larger, global workforce.

Hinrichsen added he envisions more opportunities for the school’s students in the future. The Citronen Fjord zinc-lead project in northern Greenland and the Kvane­fjeld rare earth elements project in the south are both moving forward. The Citronen project’s feasibility study estimates it will require about 300 workers; Kvanefjeld may need more than 700 workers and about 325 would be local recruits, according to its most recent feasibility study.

Mining has already had an impact on the local workforce. North American Nickel has hired a few students from the school and plans to bring students to its Maniitsoq camp next year.

True North Gems’ entire construction workforce was local, and the company will work with the school as production gets underway, according to Bent Olsvig, the managing director of the company’s local subsidiary True North Gems Greenland A/S. The company’s social impact assessment mentioned the school and also revealed that “all positions (at the project) can be occupied by Greenlanders with few exceptions” after some training.

On Sept. 24, Hudson Resources and representatives from the Greenland government gathered at the school to sign the impact benefit agreement for the White Mountain project. The site is located about 50 kilometres away from the school.

“[The signing is] awesome for the school,” Hinrichsen said. “They have to build the mine before they go into production, but surely, we’ll have students at that project.”

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