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Up close and personal
Rankin students spend two days at Meadowbank mine

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The door to future possibilities opened a little wider for a group of Rankin Inlet students this past month.

NNSL photo/graphic

Jamie Airut gives some context to the size of the monster trucks at work at the Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake during a trip to the site by students from Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik in Rankin Inlet this past month. - photo courtesy of Katharine O'Connell

The 16 students from Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik (MUI) spent two days learning about the mining industry at the Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake.

MUI science teacher and female chaperon Katharine O'Connell said the trip came about through a mining matters program being piloted in Grade 12 at MUI.

She said after covering rocks and geology, the course shifts its focus to actual mining and she thought a trip to Meadowbank would be beneficial to her students.

"Most of them are thinking about what they want to do after finishing school now," said O'Connell.

"So, this was a perfect opportunity for them to learn a bit about mining and connect with everything there.

"Now, as we dive into our section on mining, they have a better understanding of all the different components and careers involved with it."

O'Connell said the cost of the trip was the main barrier to pulling it off.

She said Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM) was terrific in helping to make the field trip a reality, and donated a portion of the airfare.

"The school paid for some of it, each of the students paid $100, and we also ran the canteen for the Laura Gauthier Memorial volleyball tournament this past weekend to help pay for it.

"We stayed at the exploration camp and slept at the mine for two nights.

"That was really cool because it gave the students a glimpse of life while living at the mine.

"There were recreational activities in the evenings, so they got a well-rounded perspective on what it would be like to work there."

O'Connell said every student took something away from the trip, ranging from sparking an interest in a career to the realization more research was required before dedicating themselves to that possibility.

She said going on a pit tour and seeing where the blasting takes place was the favourite stop for many of the students.

"We got to see all the machinery and have our photos taken with the big trucks, so most of the kids found that pretty cool.

"Some of them didn't want to leave and others are thinking about applying for a summer job there as a student.

"The mine has a wide range of opportunities and interests, from environmental techs to geologists, emergency personnel, mechanics, electricians, blasting, chefs, nurses and human resources.

"It covers so many different job fields that everyone found at least one thing they were interested in."

O'Connell said the timing of the trip was perfect with the Meliadine gold project so close to a reality in Rankin.

She said AEM staff talked to the group about the life of the mine in Baker and the Meliadine project.

"The exposure may have prompted some of these kids to pursue a mining career.

"If so, they can focus on the training they need and, hopefully, be ready to go by the time Meliadine opens.

"I'd like to see this type of trip be done every year.

"It was an awesome experience for everyone involved."

Grade 9 English and Grade 10 and 12 Aulajaaqtut teacher George Pankuch was the male chaperon on the trip and said he was impressed by the impact it had on the students.

He said the trip was a fantastic opportunity for the students to see the opportunities that exist in the industry.

"It's one thing to talk about it in class, but such a hands-on experience takes it to a whole new level," said Pankuch.

"Seeing those big 150-ton trucks come in, with some being driven by Rankin's own, really impressed the students.

"I briefly talked to the mom of one of the students after our return, and she told me her son now has an idea of what he wants to do and is thinking about becoming an environmental technician.

"Hearing something like that makes you feel like you're doing the right thing."

Pankuch said while there's only so much you can do in two days, the 16 students came away with a better idea of what the mining industry has to offer.

He said, in his opinion, the mines are an absolute gift.

"When we were on the pit tour, their faces just lit up because everything was on such a grand scale to us all.

"AEM is really pushing for people in the region to work at its mines and that opens the door to so many possibilities.

"To hear a few students say they know what they want to do since going on a trip shows how beneficial an experience like this can be.

"It was a fantastic opportunity for all of them."

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