Inspiring teachers to inspire students
Established in 1920 to represent the province’s mining sector, the Ontario Mining Association (OMA) is on the cusp of our centennial. As we prepare for this momentous milestone, we are taking stock of opportunities and advancements in mining to inspire another 100 years.
The anniversary celebration in 2020 will be an exciting chance to broadly share our members’ stories to illustrate the rich history of mining in the province and highlight its current role in making modern life and innovation possible. However, there is a group of individuals with whom we have been sharing these stories for years, and who have helped pass them along to the young people whose informed decisions will shape the future of the province and our industry. I am referring to teachers.
Since 2010, the OMA has partnered with the Canadian Ecology Centre (CEC) and Mining Matters to develop and deliver a professional learning program for teachers, themed around the mining sector. Originally named the Teachers’ Mining Tours, the five-day, fully-sponsored program owes much to the leadership and advocacy of then CEC Executive Director and renowned educator, Bill Steer, as well as George Flumerfelt, president and CEO of Redpath Mining, who chaired the OMA when the program was first proposed.
Over the years, both have remained steadfastly committed and personally involved in the program, attracting many other passionate supporters. Along with continuous financial backing by OMA members, and the participation of numerous individuals representing companies such as ALS Environmental, Atlas Copco, Boart Longyear, Caterpillar, Cementation, Glencore, Goldcorp, Knight Piesold, North American Palladium, and Vale, the tours garnered valuable contributions from partners at the Canadian Institute of Mining, the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission, Science North and Dynamic Earth’s Science Education Centre, Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development Mines, and others.
Hosted at the CEC, an environmental science education and research facility located in Samuel De Champlain Provincial Park, near Mattawa, Ont., the Teachers’ Mining Tours were designed to let teachers know what modern mining is all about, emphasizing occupational health and safety, environmental stewardship and sustainability, and exciting career opportunities in the sector. In addition, they help teachers connect their newly acquired knowledge to the curriculum, and expose them to educational resources that support their efforts back in their own classrooms. For the most part, these resources are developed by the talented team at Mining Matters, a charitable organization with which OMA has partnered for the past 25 years on a variety of initiatives. It is dedicated to bringing knowledge and awareness about Canada’s geology and mineral resources to students, educators and the public. With the generous support of OMA member companies, participating educators are given the unique opportunity to tour an underground mine, learn about environmental management and reclamation, visit mine service suppliers, and engage with industry professionals eager to share their career experiences.
The inaugural Teachers’ Mining Tour was delivered in the summer of 2010, serving the first cohort of Ontario teachers and focusing on the Sudbury camp. As part of this initial offering, participants also had the opportunity to earn part of their Environmental Science Additional Qualification through Nipissing University and the Ontario College of Teachers. Since then, the program has engaged hundreds of teachers, and benefited from their valuable feedback. Indeed, one of the most rewarding aspects of delivering this program is hearing back from the participants and being inspired by their insights and enthusiasm. Examples of comments include:
“On my first tour, I was amazed by how much the mining industry had changed from what I was taught in school. I quickly realized that although the mining industry had definitely changed, I had also been taught long obsolete ideas and information about the industry. The misconceptions I had were quickly and efficiently dispelled as I listened and talked to presenters and guides, and through my own observations.” “Ever since that first tour I sought out ways to better incorporate modern mining into my classes. Every time I did, the students ate it up. I developed lessons, activities, props and models to help teach modern mining. My students became more aware of where their stuff comes from, more supportive of the sector and some even started to consider careers in the mining sector.” “Since participating in the mining tour I have realized that my original misconceptions about mining are very common.
Proper education and exposure to the realities of modern mining are key to appreciate our stuff and increased support for the industry. Our educators are perfectly placed to fulfill that need once they have accurate and up-to-date information.” “Last spring, I had an opportunity to visit Lac Des Îles Mine in North Bay. It was my first time being in a mine… As the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Facilitator, this tour really opened my eyes to the variety of skilled trades, and technology careers that the mining industry can offer these young individuals.” “The teacher mining tours I have been on have been some of if not the best [professional development] I have participated in.
The message has been consistent – modern mining is an excellent place to work, technically it is on the cutting edge, it requires people with a huge variety of skills and most importantly, safety is number one. As a teacher that has been underground and seen how mining is being done, the message has much more meaning when I deliver it to my audience, whatever their age.”
Given an overwhelmingly positive reception and growing demand, the program initially expanded to include a second tour, then a third, multiple camps (i.e., Sudbury, Timmins and Thunder Bay), and became open to include teacher participants from across Canada. In 2016, it underwent a significant re-visioning to reflect participant and facilitator feedback.
At the suggestion of OMA’s Indigenous Relations Committee, for instance, audiences were expanded to include Mineral Resource Development Advisers, learners from Indigenous communities, and other educators, including those from industry and informal educators. In addition, requests for tours have come directly from Indigenous and educator groups, including the Anishinabek Nation and senior administrators of Durham District School Board.
In its current iteration, the program has been rebranded Mineral Resources and Mining Education Tours, and reorganized to promote a deeper level of professional learning: we encourage participants to start with a Mineral Resources and Mining Education Foundations Tour, followed by the Mine Life Cycle Tour, participating in consecutive years in both Sudbury and Timmins, and complete their training by participating in the Life in a Mining Camp Tour. Upcoming tours include Mineral Resources and Mining Foundations on Aug. 11-14, 2019, and Mine Life Cycle on Aug. 14-16, 2019. Details are available at www.canadianecology.ca/professionaldevelopment/miningtour.
As always, we will be offering an enriching learning program, supported by content experts, experienced facilitators and industry representatives. Given its priority status for our industry, safety will be first on the agenda. This year, we have exciting news to share: we met our zero fatality objective in 2018, with no fatal workplace injuries thanks to the concerted efforts of all mining safety partners. Curious how we arrived at this achievement and the values that stand behind it? Want to know what is next on our journey towards zero harm? Been wondering about the progress Ontario mining companies are making in sustainable practices and environmental stewardship? All of this and more is covered during the Mineral Resources and Mining Education Tours. Thank you to our association members, who commit their time and resources to this edifying program, as well as to the partners who help us with its implementation.
CHRIS HODGSON is president of the Ontario Mining Association.