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Vol. 12, No. 39 Week of September 30, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry

MINING NEWS: Mining training center opens in Southeast

Combined effort prepares miners to meet demand for skilled workers as industry projects multiply; Kensington nears startup

Shane Lasley

Mining News

The University of Alaska Mining and Petroleum Training Services is launching a new program at the University of Alaska Southeast this fall aimed at training a new generation of miners.

The MAPTS Training Center is a direct result of growing demand for trained mining personnel in Southeast.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Aug. 28 and classes are scheduled to begin Oct. 15.

The center is offering a five-week, entry-level mine training course. Three courses formerly taught separately will be combined in the course. They are: Entry Level Mine Labor Training, Mining Safety and Health Administration, and Entry Level Underground Miner.

“This (program) is the first of its kind in Alaska, combining three different programs into one,” said Mary Rodman-Lopez, community development specialist with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Working together to train locals

But the MAPTS training center actually evolved from earlier efforts.

The Labor Department, local Native corporations, University of Alaska and Coeur Alaska Inc., owner of the Kensington gold mine project, started working together in the spring of 2005 to bring a training program to UAS and by September of that year, the first classes were under way.

“It was incredible,” said Marquam George, a UAS assistant professor who had been discussing a mine training program with Coeur. “All the players came together. It was a great meeting of needs.”

Coeur dedicated to local hire

In a recent interview with Mining News, Meg Day, human resources manager at Coeur Alaska, said hiring locals from training programs has already proven to be successful for the company during the past 2 years.

“Coeur Alaska is committed to hiring a local work force. This type of training allows locals the opportunity to learn a new type of trade not available before,” she said.

Coeur Alaska signed an agreement in 1996 with three area Native corporations, Goldbelt Inc., Kake Tribal Corp., and Klukwan Inc. in which the company committed to fill 13.5 percent of its construction jobs and 25 percent of is operations work force with Natives. The agreement gives preference in hiring to shareholders from the three Native corporations.”

Day said the agreement also extends to shareholders of other Southeast Alaska Native corporations and Southeast Alaska Natives, as well as their spouses and dependents.

High wages spark interest in mining careers

“There has been quite a bit of interest for jobs in the mining industry because of the high pay,” Rodman-Lopez said.

According to state Labor officials, the average annual wage for workers in the mining industry increased by 26 percent in 2006, with yearly average earnings climbing to nearly $80,000. This is due primarily to increased demand for skilled workers resulting from more mining and exploration activity spurred by higher ore prices.

Current employment figures for Alaska’s mining industry are not available, but when asked, Labor representatives said as long as mineral prices are up, Alaska can expect to see a growing number of mining jobs throughout the state.



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