Student International Field Trip to Canada 2017

Just back from their international field trip to Canada some of our UNSW Mining Engineering final year students share their experiences.  Vian Young, Jessica McGregor, Ashleigh Ventura, Ethan Harvey and Tom Elliott organised, funded and led the adventure which took them to mine and quarry sites across Victoria, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Okanagan and more.  Whilst there, they also enjoyed the once in a lifetime chance to celebrate ‘Canada 150 years’ in Edmonton. You can take a quick trip through their itinerary here. 

Mine Rehabilitation – Victoria
Students visited the world renowned Butchart Gardens, a limestone quarry in the Canadian Capital, Victoria. The quarry has been extensively transformed into magnificent gardens, a world class example of mine rehabilitation.

In transport to the gardens, students basked in the glory of gigantic humpback whales, elephant seals, sea otters and white sided dolphins along with a range of indigenous bird species, enjoying a spectacular display of Canadian wildlife.

Gibraltar Copper Mine – Cariboo Region
Students visited Taseko’s Gibraltar copper-molybdenum open pit mine located in the Cariboo region of British Columbia. Gibraltar is Canada’s second largest open pit copper mine producing 140 million pounds of copper and 2.6 million pounds of molybdenum annually.

Under the guide of grade control engineer Glen Murray and geologist Scott, the students witnessed mine operations from the pit floor, getting technical with a wealth of knowledge on slope stability and deposit geology. The students also received an extensive overview and tour of the site's molybdenum and copper processing facilities from the Plant Projects Manager, Chris.

Wolverine Coal Mine – Tumbler Ridge
Students travelled to Tumbler Ridge to visit Wolverine Alpine Coal Mine in a region of the Canadian Rockies famous for its unique and complex geology. The group toured the site's facilities high in the mountainous region and learnt about the complications of mining high dip coal seams in a harsh climate and topographical setting.

Whilst in the area, the field trip group explored some of Canada's best hiking and waterfalls, visiting the Kinuseo Falls and getting up close and personal with some of the larger local wildlife.

CNRL Oil Sands - Fort McMurray
With oil sands unique to Canada, Russia and Venezuela, students were fortunate to visit CNRL's Horizon Operations located within the Athabasca Oil Fields. Hosted by Lead Planning Engineer Brian along with Geologists Sarah and Michael, the group toured the site's large open pit which operated with over 70 haul trucks! The group learnt about the geology of the site and the technical aspects of extracting the oil sands. Students were shocked as the pit floor flexed under the weight of the haul trucks driving by.

Environmental management for an operation with such a large footprint was challenging to say the least. Large in-pit tailings dams are in construction to manage future tailings and animal deterrents are in full force on site to minimise interaction with the local wildlife.

A stopover in Edmonton, Alberta, saw students experience a once in a lifetime Canada 150 celebrations at the Legislature Building and grounds with a firework show amongst thousands of patriotic Canadians.

Whilst here, a small spree in the West Edmonton Shopping Mall was a must. The mall is one of the world's largest; containing an amusement park, water park, hockey rink, mini golf centre and much more.

Potash Corp Cory Mine – Saskatoon
Brian Fagan from Hurley Fans generously offered the students a private tour of Saskatoon; around the Saskatchewan river and downtown Saskatoon, while providing a comprehensive overview of the Hurley business which is a global competitor in the construction, maintenance and refurbishment of mine ventilation systems.

Students saw these fans in action when they visited Potash Corp’s Cory Mine. Here, the group was taken around the surface and milling operations by Metallurgist Tim, whilst touring underground with Geotechnical Engineer, Melanie, and Co-op Engineering Student, Jesse.

Cory Mine is a single level potash operation, at a depth of 1km, with milling facilities for production of both white and red potash for global sale with agricultural, industrial and food additive uses. The mine utilises highly specialised continuous miners, with unique cutting heads suited for potash conditions, to produce ~800 ktpa of potash with ore grades of around 23%. 

A highlight of the tour was being able to witness the unique “stress relief” mining method and subsequent geotechnical management of the site, with controlled failure of support pillars of the previously mined drives ongoing.

Students enjoy wine tasting at Mission Hill Winery in Canada’s world-renowned wine making region.

Copper Mountain
Copper Mountain is a copper mine with gold and silver credits in south-west British Columbia. The group toured the site with Chief Engineer, Gord, and Senior Engineer, Joe, with a special tour of the site's mill by Metallurgist, Anita.

This site visit was a unique opportunity to see a mine site located high in a mountainous region surrounded by two rivers, and the way in which the environmental aspects of the site were managed to ensure the health and longevity of the surrounding environment. The unique tailings storage facility utilises a natural valley to contain and drain tailings without interacting with nearby waterways. All tailings dam water is recycled to help manage the low rainfall on site and reduce the need to extract from the waterways which feed major waterways in the   United States.

In addition to environmental challenges, the site also faces significant legacy challenges with the open pits overlying historic underground stopping workings, creating substantial geotechnical challenges with the stability of the pit walls. Students discussed the controls in place and the difficulties associated with surveys of the old workings and maintaining production above potentially hazardous regions of the mines.

A Note for the Sponsors
The students would like to thank all the following sponsors for their generous support: Aeris Tritton Operations, VIMY Resources, DART Mining, UNSW School of Mining Engineering and UNSW. Their assistance has been invaluable in contributing to the trip of a lifetime. 

You can view all the photos from the international field trip here.

During their studies we encourage students to undertake student-led activities, plan and organise events and field trips and participate in the wider community at university.  Find out more about studying at UNSW and where a Mining Engineering degree can take you here.


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  • Butchart Gardens Mine Rehabilitation
  • Whale watching in Victoria Canada
  • Gibraltar Copper Mine
  • Wolverine Coal Mine
  • Tumbler Ridge
  • Unearthing fossils at CNRL Oil Sands
  • Celebrating Canada 150 years
  • Underground at Potash Corp
  • Continuous miner at Potash Corp
  • Mission Hill Winery
  • Tailings Dam at Copper Mountain