Mining sectors put heads together
by: Karen McKinley
Northern colleges, universities and funding partners with a focus on the mining industry are teaming up to pool their talents and collaborate on more projects that will benefit themselves and the region.
On July 10, Laurentian University hosted the first meeting of the Pan-Northern Regional Mining Research Alliance to bring interested parties together to discuss the format of the group and decide on its priorities.
The meeting included 21 participants from five universities and four colleges – all of whom are in northern Ontario – four funding agencies, several northern government agencies and science partners.
“We are in the formative stage right now, but we are taking an initiative to bring our current strengths together and see where we can build on those strengths,” said Dr. Andrew P. Dean, vice-president of Research and Innovation and professor of mathematics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay in an interview. “Right now in the schools we are all working independently on our fields, but those fields are interconnected and an alliance like this is needed.”
He explained the idea for a new alliance came from a need to have one that focused on mining research. He said there are others in the region based on medical research that help connect education, companies and government agencies. The partners first started talking shortly after the federal government released its 2017 federal budget. In it it stated the federal government is committed to continued sustainable development of the mining sector through a variety of different initiatives and funding opportunities. Through this, Dean said the industry and research groups, along with education, are allied to develop jobs and eventually cleaner technology and practices.
With universities and colleges, they supply the research and students to work on projects, as well as a trained and ready workforce when they graduate.
“Businesses want to be located where there is research and innovation being done so they can have easy access to it, as well as where there are qualified people they can hire,” he said. “An alliance like this will help the industry and the communities attract more business and provide a network for schools and science outreach groups, as well training opportunities for students.”
This alliance is geared to bringing all related schools and departments at the colleges and universities together, he said, including geology, engineering and health.
A draft proposal created at the meeting included goals for guidelines, including:
- Create a research collaboration network among universities, colleges, industry, and government in Northern Ontario.
- Position Northern Ontario a leader in global mining and exploration activities;
- Work collectively to access and create pan-northern mining-related funding opportunities from government, industry and private donors.
- Build strategic partnerships between academia, government, and industry to assist in the development of research ideas and the implementation of research plans.
- Identify and highlight research program affinities, shared visions, and geographic proximity, R&D and commercialization solutions among Northern post-secondary institutions.
- To underscore the ways in which mining-related research and innovation are critical to the success of mining and allied northern development activities.
Participants also agreed the alliance will focus on eight key themes: partnerships and shared resources, diversity and leadership, health, partnership collaboration, first nations, planning, climate change and environment and technology.
“I’m not sure if all the themes will be adopted, but I’m hopeful this alliance will be successful, we are looking at what we already do well and how we can collaborate,” he said. Right now we are applying for funding and we are trying to schedule another meeting in the fall.”