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École Polytechnique and its partners announce the renewal of the NSERC-Polytechnique-UQÀT Industrial Chair in Environment and Mine-Waste Management-- and paint a glowing portrait of the mining industry

November 7, 2006 - Source : NEWS
With Christian Paradis, Mégantic-L'Érable MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the federal Minister of Natural Resources, and Pierre Corbeil, Québec Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife, in attendance, École Polytechnique de Montréal Director-General Robert L. Papineau and Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQÀT) Rector Johanne Jean, along with Professors Michel Aubertin and Bruno Bussière and industrial and government partners, today announced the renewal of the NSERC-Polytechnique-UQÀT Industrial Chair in Environment and Mine-Waste Management. Professors Aubertin and Bussière will receive an operating budget of more than $3.25 million over five years to continue their research with their respective teams. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) has invested $1.625 million in this initiative.

Mr. Paradis stated, "Effective waste-management programs are key to the future prosperity of Canadian mining operations and to the health of all Canadians. To maintain our competitive edge in mining research, all stakeholders will have to continue investing in this sector, including governments, research establishments and the private sector."

The matching $1.625 million invested by industrial partners is equally important. Finally, in addition to the $900,000 contributed by the Government of Québec government for Phase I, the Chair will receive a financial contribution of $80,000 this year from the Ministère des resources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec. Subject to available budgets, it will receive the same amount for the next four years.

"Both the Québec and Canadian mining industries are dynamic, innovative and responsible," Mr. Corbeil stated. "The mining sector has huge potential, and Québec can be proud of its achievements both at home and abroad. The industry is a major employer in Québec, particularly in the regions. It is crucial that tens of thousands of current and future positions be filled, and the work of this Chair will allow us to achieve that goal. It can only be beneficial for the future of the mining sector and I'm delighted my department is associated with this initiative."

Activities of the Chair - Phase II: Internationally recognized expertise
Since the Chair was inaugurated in 2001, its research activities--conducted in partnership with a number of mining companies and consulting engineering firms--have led to major scientific advances. For instance, significant progress has been made in mine-waste characterization, digital modelling of waste- migration processes, and development of superior solutions (from an environmental, technological and financial perspective) for the management of solid and liquid waste. These research activities have been carried out by the respective teams of Professor Aubertin at École Polytechnique de Montréal, and Professor Bussière at UQÀT.

"We're thrilled with this association between Polytechnique and UQÀT," said Polytechnique Director-General Papineau. "Pooling our expertise in this way, with the support of our industrial and government partners, will help us to ensure that Québec remains a world leader in the industry."

Québec is in fact an internationally renowned centre of excellence in the mining sector, because of this industry's commitment to responsible environmental practices and technological development, as well as the quality of its human resources. As a result, its professionals are in demand throughout the world. Furthermore, a number of countries are seeking to attract Québec mining companies to explore and develop deposits in their territory.

Ms. Jean, UQÀT Rector, added, "The mining industry is intimately tied to the social and economic life, not only of the regions, but of Québec as a whole; it directly contributes to our wealth. The renewal of this Chair will allow Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the heart of Québec's mining industry, to continue playing a crucial role. The Chair, like many others in the mining and forestry sectors, clearly demonstrates UQÀT's desire to make the environment an integral part of economic development."

Valuable partnerships to advance research and promote the mining industry
NSERC unhesitatingly renewed its support for a second term. In the words of its President, Suzanne Fortier: "This Chair's program offers students a wonderful opportunity to conduct research and learn useful skills in an innovative and topical sector. The investment will help us maintain our competitive edge in basic research and innovation in an industry that is key to our national prosperity."

The mining industry is currently on an upswing, with Québec rated as the top place in Canada and fourth in the world for prospecting. In spite of its tremendous promise, however, there is much unawareness and misconception about the realities of careers this industry, which places a premium on high-technology and protection of the environment.

By renewing their financial support for this Chair, the industrial partners are seeking to contribute to the expansion of the industry and the discovery of new technological breakthroughs, which will demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, the degree to which the sector is robust and resolutely modern. Seven companies (some of them leading international players) have demonstrated their ongoing confidence in Professors Aubertin and Bussière and their colleagues. Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd., Barrick Gold Corporation, Rio Algom-BHP Billiton, Xstrata (Falconbridge Ltd.), and QIT-Rio Tinto have each pledged a sum of $275,000 for five years. Specialized consulting firms Golder Associates Ltd. (Canada) and SNC-Lavalin Inc. are also contributing $125,000 each over five years.

"We are convinced that this collaboration with internationally renowned academics in the field will allow us to improve our technologies and promote greater understanding of our industry among the general public," noted Jacques McMullen, spokesperson for the Chair's industrial partners. "The mining industry generates some 18,000 direct jobs in Québec and 350,000 in Canada; it's clearly a major economic driver."

The mining industry: a veritable gold mine ... but where are the workers?
The mining industry is a cornerstone of Québec's economic development. Comprising 50-odd mines, it produces some 30 mineral substances and represents annual consignments valued at close to $3.5 billion. The sector also boasts the highest salaries in the country. "The salary of a recent mining engineering graduate is in the $45,000 to $75,000 range, and we've had a 100% placement rate for many years now," said Dr. Richard Simon, Director of École Polytechnique's mining engineering program. "Thanks to their internships, mining engineering graduates land their first job months before even finishing their studies."

A major study shows that the Canadian mining sector will need 81,000 new workers in the next 10 years. Close to half of the industry's current employees are aged 40 to 54, and 40% of them are planning on retiring in the near future. However, very few young people are setting their sights on a career in mining engineering.

"People still think mining engineers have very unexciting jobs while, in reality, they're involved in implementing and using the latest digital and automation technologies," observed Professor Aubertin, Senior Chairholder and Professor in the Department of Civil, Geological and Mining Engineering at École Polytechnique. "Environmental protection is a major part of contemporary mining activities. Some mining companies are also contributing in a positive way to sustainable development by promoting the recycling of metals that can be of use to future generations," added Professor Bussière, Associate Chairholder and Professor at UQÀT.

The mining industry has to convince young people (and their parents in particular) of its needs, since the industry is flourishing and is actively seeking new recruits--regardless of its image in the public eye. Given the current challenge to fill positions, the industry has plenty of public-awareness work to do. Today, a career fair on the mining industry was held at École Polytechnique. Most of the companies working in the field were there to inform students and the public on employment possibilities in Montréal, Val-d'Or, Fort McMurray and even Madagascar!

For that rare gem that is today's mining engineering graduate, the mining sector promises a stimulating and challenging career, along with an exceptional quality of life.

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