On Friday, July 29th, 2016, the inaugural class of the Mining Mill Operations Occupational Endorsement had their commencement ceremony. This is a unique program and the first of its kind in the nation. This new mining mill operations training program will provide qualified technical mill operators to support Alaska’s large scale mines. The safety and mill specific training these graduates receive prepares them for an entry level mill operator position, and will pay dividends for the mining partners through shorter training times for employees. These graduates and new employees are expected to maintain a high level of safety and to help increase mill efficiencies. Representatives from Coeur Kensington Mine, Hecla Greens Creek Mine, Kinross Fort Knox Mine, and Sumitomo Pogo Mine, four of the major mining companies with Alaska operations, were on-site to interview the program completers.
Photo Credit: JR Ancheta, University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of Alaska Fairbanks Mineral Industry Research Laboratory (UAF-MIRL) received a US Department of Labor TAACCCT consortium grant of over 8 million dollars to enhance mining-related training across the state. One of the tasks, led by Dr. Tathagata Ghosh, was the creation of a Mill Operations training program. In this silo breaking project, University of Alaska Fairbanks Community and Technical College (UAF-CTC) Process Technology instructors worked with doctoral granting UAF-MIRL Mining Engineering faculty, to fulfill the training requirements the industry demands to fill openings with qualified Alaskan candidates. “It was a nebulous idea when we first conceived it, and with the help of the industry we were able to execute this innovative program” said Dr. Tathagata Ghosh. The four mining companies who attended the ceremony assisted in the development in the program.
Mr. Brian Ellingson from UAF-CTC has been invaluable to the program both as an instructor and in a student advisory capacity. He said “I’m very proud of our mill operations graduates. They have worked hard over the past 10 weeks to learn the intricacies of operating the mill in a large scale mine. They have demonstrated a strong work ethic and a passion for learning about mill operations. I’m confident these graduates will reduce the mines initial training costs, and they will have great careers in this industry.”
A third-party evaluation of the grant, also funded by the US Department of Labor, is being conducted by Education Northwest. According to Havala Hanson, Evaluator, Education Northwest, “designing and launching the Mining Mill Operations Occupational Endorsement provided a rare opportunity for UAF-MIRL and UAF-CTC to collaborate and enhance the program through combining instructional expertise and student support services from each campus. Students praised the hands-on learning approach and extra academic support provided to master difficult concepts during the short and fast-paced program.”
TAACCCT (Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training) is a federal program funded through the Department of Labor's Education and Training Administration. It provides funds to expand and improve education and career training programs that can be completed in two years or less, are suited for TAA-eligible workers, and prepare for employment in high-wage, high-skill occupations. In addition to the Mining Mill Operations OE, the project is developing a first ever dynamic mill simulator. There are also other mining related programs being funded across the state including a Hard Skills Mine Training and Mine Mechanic programs. The program website is available at: ine.uaf.edu/mirl/taaccct