More than ever before, today’s profitable mining operations rely on advanced science. The planning of underground openings and rock mechanics are based on complicated measurements and analysis. Slope stability of open pits takes into account hydraulics, gravity and monitoring systems. Mineral processing is examined as a complex series of equations that describe everything from particle attraction to molecular changes. The detection and evaluation of environmental impact is routinely measured to parts per billion. Separately or together, all these parameters are modelled by complex computer programs to compare outcomes.
Mining has become a scientific undertaking far beyond the understanding of the general public.
The people at Sudbury’s LAURENTIAN UNIVERSITY and SCIENCE NORTH are addressing the problem. They have created Canada’s first Graduate Diploma in Science Communication. Similar courses of study are available in Australia and Europe.
The year-long program is to begin in September 2005. Students will take courses in subjects such as learning theory, science and society, and rhetoric as well practical aspects of communicating science to the public using media such as electronic technology and exhibits. Enrolment is limited to 15 students each year to ensure that everyone receives personal mentoring and is able to participate in individual projects that suit their interests. All students will be eligible for scholarships and other financial support. Places are still available for September 2005.
The program will be directed jointly by Dr. David Pearson from Laurentian University and Chantal Barriault from Science North. Barriault is a graduate of the Master’s in Science Communication Program at the University of Glamorgan, in United Kingdom. Pearson, earth sciences professor at Laurentian and founding director of Science North, was awarded the 2003 McNeil Medal of the Royal Society of Canada for science communication. Alan Nursall, Science Director at Science North, who will be teaching in the program, is a regular contributor to the Discovery Channel and since 1997 has hosted a weekly science column broadcast across Canada.
Details of the program can be found at www.ScienceCommunication.ca.
Every Canadian mining company should send at least one person from communications department through this course. Graduates could explain the science behind decisions made at every level of the industry: exploration, development, production and environmental protection. When the level of public understanding is raised, I expect there would be less opposition to mining projects.