Since the first coal mine opened on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island some 350 years ago, the mining industry in Canada has changed considerably.
Presently, Canada has more than 800 mines. The industry employs at least 363,000 people and is one of the most technologically advanced sectors in Canada.
But when young Canadians think of mining, the image of a man covered in dirt hitting a cave wall with a pick-axe tends to come to mind.
That image couldn’t be further from the reality of Canada’s mining industry today.
Check out these commonly held myths and the truth we dug up about each of them with the help of the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR).
Myth: All mining jobs take place in dark, dank, underground spaces.
Truth: The mining industry includes exploration, development, operations, processing as well as mine closures and land reclamation. Since most of these parts of the mining cycle occur aboveground, most workers in the mining industry do not work underground.
University of British Columbia Mining Engineering student Elizabeth Hughes, who is currently completing an eight-month co-op term with Goldcorp in Vancouver, says although she sometimes does ventilation surveying underground, she typically spends her days “doing either drill and blast designs and letters, stope valuations, [or] development designs.”
Also, don’t forget that many careers in mining have nothing to do with physically extracting resources from the earth. People who work in mining can be found in high-rise office buildings in large cities, in labs, and out in communities collaborating with local citizens.
Myth: Mining uses archaic tools and brute force.
Truth: Thanks to rapid technological advances in the mining industry, it is rare today that miners use their own physical strength to extract resources.
The integration of technology in Canada’s mining industry has allowed for the use of robotics, computers and other state-of-the-art equipment to become commonplace.
In fact, miners can dig through 2400 feet through rock in order to reach minerals located deep underground while operating equipment from a completely different city than where the mine is located.
Mark Ashcroft, a professional engineer who is President and CEO of Stonegate Agricom, a company focused on the development of phosphate deposits in the Americas, says, for example, “A young mechanical engineer could find himself in the pit or underground shop looking at maintenance issues on production vehicles. A mining engineer could find herself collaborating with an electrical engineer and a telecommunications vendor as they discuss the management of wireless technologies and mining fleet dispatch software.”
Myth: Employees in the mining industry require no knowledge or skills.
Truth: Due to the sophisticated equipment and leading-edge technology used in the mining industry, highly skilled and educated workers are required to work in mining.
The skills necessary may include computer technology, information management, mining extraction knowledge or mineral processing, as well as many others.
What are known as “soft skills” are becoming increasingly important in mining as well. Mining companies need people who can grow the business, understand and stay ahead of complicated laws and regulations, and ensure they operate in a sustainable, community-friendly way.
Myth: The mining industry is dangerous.
Truth: Over the last 100 years, the mining industry has developed into a sophisticated industry that utilizes automated mining processes.
As a result, it is considered one of the safest industrial sectors in Canada. Concerning safety laws, there are 14 federal regulations, 19 federal acts as well as dozens more at the provincial and territorial levels that regulate the mining industry.
For more information about starting your career in the mining industry, check out www.acareerinmining.ca.