Reader Rebuttal (December 01, 2003)
Interest in Canada’s mining schools
The answer to your query [“Why are young people not staying in mining engineering after graduation?”] is obvious to us in this industry. Initially young men and women desire the adventure and travel opportunities to far-away places that this industry often offers. As new mines open and close, relocation is often required. In the exploration industry this timeframe is shorter and relocations more frequent. After a few years, people develop relationships, get married and have children. The desire to be with family often supersedes the desire to travel and seek adventure.
I know of one offshore oil engineer who after working a long term of almost a year on a rig came home to a child who did not recognize him and was afraid of this stranger. That engineer quit his lucrative job and now spends much more time with his family.
president, Bedrock Research Corp.
The real problem in the mining industry is that mine closures have been outstripping new mine openings at an alarming rate for about the last 15 years or so, and industry leaders aren’t doing enough about it. My husband and I have spent our lives in the mining industry and do freelance prospecting work now. Junior companies tell us to bring them “proven, drilled-off deposits”, but we can’t do that without grassroots work first, and that takes money. No one wants to take on the risk of grassroots exploration, just sure bets. No such thing in mining.
Barbara Welsh, geological engineer
I concur with the comments in the article. I have been a mining engineer for 21 years, of which 16 years were with an operating mine in northern Alberta. I left the mine to live in a major centre for family reasons but also to provide my children with the growth opportunities that are not always available in an isolated community.
I also find that, unlike my graduating class, new graduates are hitting the streets with little practical summer experience in the mines. I’m not certain of the true cause of this situation. My summer experience in operating mines helped me immensely to understand some of the issues around mining, whether underground or surface. The schools are also producing a generation of engineers that rely too heavily on technology. What happens if your computer breaks down? Do you stop working? Without the basics, students don’t truly understand the results that computers spit out.
Leo Piciacchia, manager of Oil Sands Mining
Canada’s first female mining engineer
I read with interest the article, “Resurgence in Canadian Mining Schools Long Overdue”, and I would like to correct a statement on page 17. You write, “Justyn Kuryllowicz was the first Canadian mining engineer, graduating from McGill in 1978.” This is not true. Our department at Laval University graduated the first female mining engineer in Canada in 1971. She was Louise Bolduc. She accepted a position with International Nickel Co. of Canada at Sudbury becoming the company’s only female engineer. A short story with her picture appeared in your journal in the June issue of 1973. Unfortunately, she died in a car accident a few years later. I appreciate if you would bring this to the attention of your readers and reproduce the photo taken exactly thirty years ago in her memory.
Fathi Habashi, professor emeritus
of extractive metallurgy
Your article on page 16 re “Resurgence in Canadian Mining Schools” states that “Justyn Kuryllowicz was the first Canadian female mining engineer, graduating from McGill in 1978.” Fran Mather has her beat by 19 years, graduating in 1959 from the University of Alberta. Frances was in my graduating class and is presently still working, although not in mining, at the University in New Orleans.
Mike Berthelsen, class of ’59