The University of Alaska Fairbanks will lead a new project to enhance mining workforce training throughout the state, the university announced in a statement.
The project, funded by an $8.1 million federal Department of Labor grant, will include partners at the University of Alaska Southeast, the University of Alaska Anchorage Prince William Sound Community College and the UA Mining and Petroleum Training Service.
“The pay in the mining industry averages $100,000 per year. Yet, many jobs, such as mill operators, underground miners and mine mechanics, are difficult to fill because of lack of training opportunities in the state,” said Rajive Ganguli, a UAF mining engineering professor and the principal investigator on the grant.
At UAS, the project will help upgrade facilities in the mine mechanic program there, as well as increase staffing in the mine training and power technology program.
MAPTS will offer six trainings per year at its underground miner training program at the Delta Mine Training Center.
The UAF Community and Technical College and Mineral Industry Research Laboratory, along with the PWSCC, will partner on a new mill process operator certificate program, which draws on partnerships with both industry and the State of Alaska. The program will include online courses accessible to students across the state.
The new certificate program will offer several novel approaches to education and unique opportunities for students. Students in the mill process operator program will have access to mineral processing research facilities in the UAF College of Engineering and Mines, an unusual pairing of certificate and doctoral programs at UAF. Mining companies Hecla, Sumitomo, Coeur and Kinross will assist MIRL in developing a mill simulator for mill operator training.
According to Ganguli, these types of academic programs require an active partnership with industry, not only to fine tune the curriculum but also for content development. The development of the mill simulator is especially complex.
“Our research faculty know the fundamentals that govern mill operation, but they do not operate complex industrial mills,” he said. “The partnership with the mining companies was important so that we could get access to their mill engineering knowledge to properly design and test the simulator.”