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Mining makes it happen

Teaching girls in Dawson City how to test the physical properties of minerals. © Yukon Women in Mining

Teaching Earth Sciences awareness

There’s nothing like an AHA! moment, when something suddenly clicks, someone “gets it,” and a smile blossoms with the knowledge. For educators, those moments are golden, and in Canada’s northern regions, they’re becoming increasingly common, thanks to Mining Matters, a charitable Canadian organization focused on raising Earth science awareness in students, educators and the public. Mining Matters teaches young Canadians about Canada’s geology and mineral resources, about mining and its relevance to quality of life and about the importance of education to open doors for the future.

This year the organization celebrates 25 years of delivering those AHA! moments. Based in Toronto, Ontario, their core programs spark interest in Earth science across the country, delivering foundational information about rocks, minerals, metals and mining. Program content, designed by teachers for teachers and meshing with provincial curricula, has grown over the years to include information- and activity-packed teaching kits for both indoor and outdoor learning environments. Kids and adults alike light up when they get the connection between a copper sample and computers or a smartphone, iron ore and the steel in everything from kitchen tools to vehicles, mica flakes and eye shadow, or lithium ore and a battery. They see that “mining makes it happen.”

Mining Matters Reach. © Minke Design

In 2002, the organization initiated a program specifically designed for Indigenous communities, starting with 18 students from six communities gathered for a week-long experience at the Kullik Ilihakvik School in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Today, their highly successful Indigenous Communities Education and Outreach Program (ICEOP) reaches students, teachers and communities across Canada in camp and school settings, professional development workshops and during Indigenous community gatherings, career fairs, conferences and festivals.

From youth to elders, Indigenous communities benefit from teaching resources developed with sensitivity to the important role those communities play in resources stewardship, management and development. Says Mining Matters President Patricia Dillon, “Indigenous communities have much to offer and gain as partners in Canada’s present and future economic development. We are proud to have been among the first to collaborate with community leadership and educators to design and deliver Earth science resources that feature local geology and mineral exploration. We value the special relationships we have with the communities in which we have delivered programs.”

After 17 years, those relationships now exist in dozens of Indigenous communities across Canada. In 2018, Mining Matters teams delivered 46 programs for young people, educators and the public as part of their ICEOP. Northern destinations in 2018 included:

  • Yukon: Whitehorse, Pelly Crossing and Dawson City
  • Northwest Territories: Tulita, Norman Wells, Coville Lake, Deline, Fort Good Hope, Yellowknife (including teachers from Whatì, Gamètì and Wekweètì), Dettah, Ndilo, Behchokǫ  and Hay River. Partnership programs extended reach into Aklavik, Fort Providence, Inuvik and Tuktoyuktuk.
  • Nunavut: Iqaluit, Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay
  • Nunavik: Salluit, Kangiqsujuaq.

In the report, “Facts and Figures of the Canadian Mining Industry” published by the Mining Association of Canada in 2017, Brendan Marshall cites that: Many of Canada’s 1,200 Indigenous communities are located within 200 kilometres of approximately 180 producing mines and more than 2,500 active exploration properties. Recognizing the mining industry as a significant presence in northern Canada, former Whatì community Chief Charlie Jim Nitsiza welcomes Mining Matters programs, commenting, “The Elders have been saying for many years that the Tlicho people need to be introduced to mining and geology at an early age so that they can become active participants in future mining, exploration and development on Tlicho Lands.”

Exploring rocks and minerals during a field trip to the Ranney Hill Geological Interpretive Trail near Yellowknife, NWT.

Mining Matters introduces that early learning through teaching resources that complement classroom curricula with supplementary material for all ages, from activity books to posters, and hands-on activities from Cookie Mining and Amethyst Jewellery Making to Headframe Engineering Challenge and Water Filtration Design. Participants get excited about handling rock and mineral samples and experiencing practical geological and mineral exploration. They meet industry role models, take field trips and explore career opportunities in the minerals industry. One young participant from Whitehorse couldn’t wait to share her reaction to the program, saying, “I loved everything about the program, especially the way they taught it!”

Numerous companies, communities, associations, governmental departments, foundations and school districts support and partner with Mining Matters, knowing the importance of exciting youth about Earth science and careers in the mineral exploration and mining industries. The staff at Mining Matters expect their educational initiatives, including ICEOP, to expand steadily over the next 25 years, achieving countless AHA! moments and a brighter future for many more young people across Canada.