Northern Lights College and HD Mining Sign Memorandum of Understanding

Trent Ernst, Editor
 
While the wheels of justice slowly turn over the discussion of Temporary Foreign Workers, HD Mining is taking steps to train permanent Canadian Workers to work at the Murray River Mine. 
 
While details are thin at the moment, HD Mining has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work collaboratively on the development of an underground mining training and education program with Northern Lights College (NLC). 
 
As part of the agreement, NLC and HD Mining will work to deliver the training in Tumbler Ridge, as well as to include key community partners in the organization and delivery of the training. These community partners include the District of Tumbler Ridge and First Nations communities.
 
Dr. Peter Nunoda, Vice President, Academics and Research at NLC says that they don’t have a curriculum in place yet, but are in the process of developing one. 
 
“Currently NLC doesn’t have an underground mining program,” says Nunonda. “So our first step is to go out and investigate curriculum. We’re going to look at programs already in place in places like Kentucky, West Pennsylvania, or Virginia, to find institutes that offer the right type of training.”
 
Once they’ve got a curriculum in place, they have to figure out the scope of what the training will entail. Nunonda says the program will involve training with a simulator, but they are investigating something a little more realistic. “We are investigating setting up a simulated mining environment above ground,” says Nunonda. “It would be a scaled replica, in a completely safe environment. A number of hard rock schools have these simulated production facilities, which allow you to start hands-on training with students in that environment.”


Northern Lights College (NLC) and HD Mining will work to deliver the training in Tumbler Ridge, as well as to include key community partners in the organization and delivery of the training. These community partners include the District of Tumbler Ridge and First Nations communities


Simulations, says Nunonda, are great to a point, “but they don’t give you all the skills. What we’re looking at is creating a space, and we need to figure out how that would look. Do we actually bring the minerals there for them to work on, or is it a more simulated environment? I have to look at these other schools and figure out what they’re doing. You have to be able to do it over and over and over again.”
 
Discussions towards a potential agreement have been underway for more than a year. No plans have been finalized with regard to the format or timelines for training, although the MOU has a duration of three years. Nunonda says that anyone looking to see a course in place by September 2013 is probably a little too optimistic. “It’d more likely be September, 2014. It’s not just a question of developing the curriculum, we also need to develop infrastructure.” That includes what machinery the students would train on. 
 
While the program is being spearheaded by HD Mining, Nunonda says that the skills learned in the program would be transferable to other underground mines. “While this is a collaboration with HD, we see this as training that any company would be able to take advantage of for underground.”
 
Currently, Northern Lights offers two Mining training programs: the Mining Fundamental Program and the Introduction to Heavy Equipment Operation Course. Nunonda says that they would offer more if it was asked for. “It’s not an inability for us to train, it’s a matter of demand. We’ve been responding to demand as they come along. Our relationship with our industry partners is a strong one.”
 
Is Nunonda worried that there is a stigma around underground mining, especially coal mining? “I think much of that has to do with public exposure,” he says. “People in Tumbler Ridge are familiar with open pit, but have no experience underground. Part of our goal is to educate the local people so there’s a comfort level with it. Most people have no clue as to what it’s about.”