Making a difference to mining in Saskatchewan
Ensuring that one of Saskatchewan’s most important economic sectors remains globally competitive is a driving force behind the International Minerals Innovation Institute. And it’s never been more important than today, with current prices of many metals and minerals testing the patience of companies and investors alike.
There is good reason to innovate – about 30,000 Saskatchewan jobs hang in the balance.
With a mandate to help Saskatchewan minerals companies remain globally competitive, the International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII) is a unique partnership between industry, government, post-secondary education and research institutions.
Formed in 2012, the organization supports a world-class minerals industry in Saskatchewan by facilitating innovative industry education, training, research and resource development initiatives and partnerships.
This industry-led and industry-driven organization is the first of its kind in Canada, with a focus on two primary areas: Education and Training (E&T) programs to address labour force needs in the sector, and Research and Development (R&D) projects to address workplace health and safety, environmental sustainability, social license, policy research, exploration, mining, processing and economic challenges.
Each project is driven by industry priorities, and evaluated by the IMII Board of Directors, along with E&T and R&D panels to ensure collaboration occurs amongst all partners to clearly define needs, solutions, implementation plans and outcomes; ultimately solving industry’s top challenges. This type of collaboration is what makes the IMII so unique and vital in supporting Saskatchewan’s growing minerals industry.
Minerals and mining is a key contributor to Saskatchewan communities and the economy – in fact Saskatchewan is the largest producer of potash in the world, and the second largest producer of uranium, and the industry employs approximately 30,000 people. According to the Fraser Institute’s 2015 annual survey of mining executives, Saskatchewan was ranked as the most attractive jurisdiction in the country for mining investment, and the second most attractive jurisdiction in the world.
There is tremendous opportunity for Saskatchewan’s mineral industry, but that growth does not come without challenges. Skilled labour shortages and development of new technologies, processes and practices will be key to continued prosperity. To date, the IMII has used its funding from Agrium, BHP Billiton Canada Inc., Cameco Corp, K+S Potash Canada, Mosaic, Potash Corp, North Rim Exploration Ltd., and Innovation Saskatchewan to address these challenges through the following investments:
Research and Development
Since 2014, IMII has committed $4.2 million to four research and development projects focusing on safety, environment, hydrogeology and corrosion research for the potash and uranium minerals industry. These projects have facilitated collaboration between Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Regina, Canadian Light Source and members of the six companies supporting the research and development projects.
Education & Training
Since 2013, $5.4 million has been committed to seven E&T related projects, with a total budget of approximately $10 million. These projects will train an anticipated 350 people per year in important careers for the mining industry, including mining entry level, diamond driller helpers, radiation technicians, mine technicians, introduction to mining, electricians entry-level program among others. Key projects include:
- The development of mining options at the University of Saskatchewan. Three new faculty members were hired to deliver seven newly created mining options courses in Geological, Mechanical and Chemical engineering for undergraduate students in those disciplines with the College of Chemical Engineering.
- The establishment of the Centre for Minerals Innovation at Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Saskatoon campus. The centre is developing new courses and programs for the minerals industry, while building collaborative working relationships with the regional colleges and stakeholders.
- Funding for skills development training programs at Northlands College, Cumberland College, Parkland College, and Carlton Trail College have resulted in 97 graduates across the province in less than a year.
- Northlands College is building the Mine School, which includes purchasing equipment simulators and refurbishing laboratories for enhanced teaching with state of the art methods.
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"Saskatchewan’s mining industry is contributing to the province and to the world in big ways, and IMII is dedicated to funding projects that will address the industry’s primary challenges to ensure continued expansion and prosperity”
Minister Jeremy Harrison, Minister responsible for Innovation, IMII AGM 2015.