Queen's takes crown at Canadian Mining Games

Queen's at the mining games

 This year’s Mining Games, which opened with much fanfare on March 7 with a banquet at the elegant Le Windsor Hotel in Montreal’s Old Port, picked up steam over the weekend as teams from 10 schools pitted themselves against each other in 25 competitions, and came to a close with an Awards Gala banquet at the scenic Chalet de Mont-Royal, where Queen’s University was announced as the gold medallist.

Although Queen’s took home the championship, competition was fierce: École Polytechnique de Montréal, one of two schools hosting the event, ranked fourth overall.  McGill University, the other host school, came in first in several contests, including mineral identification, public speaking, equipment selection and the newly added crisis management. Laurentian University, ranked second, excelling in mineral processing and survey events, while the University of British Columbia, the team in third place, dominated in AutoCad and the brand new sustainable development competition.

“The mining games are a really great opportunity for students to get involved and compete,” says Andrew Crook, a third-year mining engineering student on the UBC team, who is also president of the university’s CIM Student Chapter. “But also, they are an excellent venue to network with other schools and with representatives of mining companies.”

Among industry representatives at the games were the dynamic duo who started the very first Mining Games in 1990: Franck Boudreault, regional business manager for Africa & Middle East at Atlas Copco, and Daniel Gagnon, general of the mining group at Met-Chem. Both were impressed by the scale of the event and the level of student engagement. “We came up with the idea just jokingly when we were supposed to be working a summer term at the Brunswick mine, but the mine went on strike,” said Gagnon.

According to Gagnon, the two students spoke to their respective professors about the plan the following fall, reached out to a few contacts at neighbouring schools, and made their fleeting fantasy a reality on a shoestring budget and a tight deadline. “We called the people from Laval and Queen’s we had met over the summer and invited them to participate and slapped together 10 events,” recalled Gagnon. “And that was how it all started. That and a budget of $2,000.”

The event has since expanded dramatically, with Osisko, Imperial Oil, Esso, Barrick, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) and a host of other sponsors providing funds and helping organize and host some of the competitions. It is just great to see the size of the crowds and how everybody is totally on their toes for this,” said CIM’s executive director Jean Vavrek.

This year’s brand new health and safety competition was organized and evaluated by Michael Hartley, Barrick’s manager of risk and management of change, who provided a multimedia presentation to illustrate the importance of controls and provide students with a case study to explore in the competition.

 “We decided to add new events, like the health and safety component, both to meet [the] changing needs of the industry and to allow more students to participate,” explained Stephen Coates, co-chair of the Canadian Mining Games and mining engineering student at McGill. “One of the challenges was to get more of the students involved. Mining engineering programs have grown and we wanted to make the games more accessible.”

Coates and co-chair Anik Trépanier, who is a student at École Polytechnique de Montréal,  said challenges were met and the event was a great success. “I can say that I am proud of all that we have accomplished and the whole team amazed me with their devotion, their communication skills and their organization,” said Trépanier in an email after the event.