Friday 24 August 2012

Day 7 of the SMA GeoVenture

Tracey Irwin, Saskatchewan Mining Association

Day seven (last day) of the SMA GeoVenture began with breakfast at the Delta Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon followed by a presentation on Diamonds in Saskatchewan presented by Shawn Harvey, Manager of Geology with Shore Gold Inc. Shawn gave an overview of the history of diamonds and spoke about the Fort a la Corne Kimerlite field located in central Saskatchewan.

To wrap up the GeoVenture, Pam and Kate gave a presentation on the Geology of Saskatchewan and Kate demonstrated the Potash Experiment (Potash Solution Mining - Dissolving Potash) one more time for the educators to take back to their classrooms.

Before everyone departed, the participants expressed their appreciation for the education-outreach program organized by SMA. Even though we had a busy schedule traveling across Saskatchewan, it was hard to believe that the week was over. 

Thursday 23 August 2012

Day 6 of the SMA GeoVenture Program

Heather Gobbett- Principal, Huron Colony School
Day number six began with our group jumping on the bus at 6:45am off to Mosaic Esterhazy's K2 mining operation.  I’ve been both excited and a little nervous about this day ever since hearing that we would actually drop over one KM down to the mining face.  As excited as I was… it all just seemed a little surreal to think that we’d really be doing that!

We quickly signed in, geared up with our safety glasses, hard hats, reflective vests and steel toed boots, and were briefed on what we’d see.  Many thanks to the incredible and knowledgeable staff at the K2 site! 

As we stepped into the skip (the elevator), I found my heart in my throat.  The cage to go down was very dark.  The miner with us thankfully put his light down as we descended.  It only took about 3 minutes to descend the 1100 meters or so.  Upon arrival, I was immediately struck with how warm it was underground.  Thankfully Helen from above had thought to send water bottles with us all.  We all boarded three vehicles to make the 40 min drive to the face of the mining operation. I kept imagining myself as Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic Schoolbus” saying, “Seatbelts everyone!!”.   The trip there was bumpy, and as we went in and out of the tunnels, past big blowers of air and the conveyor belts full of potash, it all seemed a little surreal.  Were we really so far under the earth?  This was amazing.  How does someone like me ever get a chance to see something like this?  Wow.
After a couple stops, we arrived at the face of the mining operation, the room in which active mining was going on.  The miners stopped the machine, and in the quiet, we could hear a strange sound—kind of like a “Snap, Crackle, Pop” of rice crispies.  In fact it was the freshly mined potash - the rock reacting to pressure changes as the space is opened up. Wow!  Apparently, within the first day, the pressure changes actually result in the walls closing in about 4 inches because of expansion.  Afterwards, this expansion slows down.  The earth is amazing.

I was struck by the sparseness of refuge station #6—the spot where several miners spent many hours, trapped after a fire in January 2006.  Despite its seeming sparseness, the station did what it needed to do, and very thankfully they were kept safe and sound when the rescuers found them.  In every mine we visited, safety was a vital concern, and this was the very room that saved the lives of the miners who were trapped. 

Shortly thereafter, we travelled back up the skip for lunch.  I think we were all hungry and thirsty after this experience!   An overview of the milling process was provided to us, followed by a tour of the above-ground operation.  This process turned the underground mined ore, into a finished product.  I was struck by the immenseness of the machinery in the mill.  It was huge, and hot and the entire process was very interesting.

After leaving the K2 mine in Esterhazy, we all boarded the bus for the final leg of our journey back to Saskatoon.  It was a long ride that day, and we were all tired.  We made our final stop at Tim Horton's in Yorkton.  It’s been a full week, but I wouldn’t trade one moment of it.

What a day.  Thank you to the staff at K2 for letting us see the operation close up,  and to the Saskatchewan Mining Association for allowing us to come this week.  It was just incredible.  I feel like I can bring to life the images found in lessons within textbooks now, and tell my students first-hand how the process works.  This week has given me so much more insight into how mining works in our province.  I’m going to honour your investment in us, and  I can’t wait to tell my students all about it.  It’s been one of the highlights of my summer, and definitely one of the best professional development I’ve ever done. THANK YOU!

Cheryl Prefontaine - Saskatoon Public Schools
Riding back to Saskatoon today and thinking about the distance traveled on our trip, I realized we've also been traveling back in time in a sense.  We might not have been hopping into our time machines but we've visited places that started forming hundreds of millions of years ago.  Today's adventures transported us back to remnants of when Saskatchewan was covered by a shallow inland sea.  Once upon a geological time we were quite the tropical locale and salt deposits in our former sea became the source of our famous potash reserves.  We visited the Prairie Evaporite formation approximately 3000 feet underground that dates back to origins of 400 million years ago.  This particular formation is where our province's reserves of potash can be found. 

Underground we made four main stops to tour a small portion of the complex underground network that is in Esterhazy.

expansion site
one of the shops where they were assembling a four rotor miner
a miner in action
refuge station

Eugene Pawliw - Yorkton Regional High School

Occupations in Underground Construction As Seen at a Conventional Potash Mine Site

The headframe which straddled the shaft supports the winch and cables which transport workers the 3150 feet up and down; to and from the actual work areas in an "elevator" like cage.  In a similar fashion, the headframe has two suspended, alternately elevated skips or containers which raise ore to the surface for mill processing.  This handling system also lowered vehicles, conveyors, motors, and the components from which to assemble the four rotor miners.

There are a variety of trades represented in a project such as the ore handling system.  Mechanical miners would have been used to excavate two vertically parallel drifts, after which professional miners would have drilled and blasted the four hoppers which connect the two drifts.  Structural iron workers would have assembled the frameworks of the hopper tops and the structural framework for the upper belt conveyor.  Welders would have fabricated the hopper chutes below the storage area.  Millwrights would have installed the mechanical components of the conveyor and the maintenance platforms.  These tradespeople would have been accompanied by electricians who install the heavy electrical components which operate the conveyors.  A group of tradespeople who are essential to the operation of the remote ore storage system are the instrumentation technicians who set up the sensors and monitors through which the conveyor's operations could be monitored. 

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Day 5 of the SMA GeoVenture

Keith Theoret - Outlook High School
Coline Smetaniuk - Sacred Heart School/ Ecole Sacre Coeur, Estevan.

On the morning of August 22nd we began our day by donning our SMA logo-ed orange shirts.  After a quick breakfast at the Stage Coach Hotel in Willow Bunch we visited the Edouard Beaupre monument. He was the 8'3" "Giant of Willow Bunch".

We hopped on the bus and arrived at the Poplar River Mine in a timely fashion thanks to the use of a short cut shown to us by Al.  We were greeted by Emily and Jarad who then introduced us to the maintenance manager Mark.  Mark took us on a tour of the maintenance shop.   We saw several neat things including the giant chain which the drag line uses to pull its bucket as it fills.  

We boarded the bus along with Emily Jared, Al, and Cory, and Regan and took a drive to the edge of the mining pit where we could see the coal being loaded onto trucks on the one side.  While on the other, we could see the dragline removing the overburden and exposing the coal.  From a distance it is difficult to fathom the shear size of the drag line, so we moved closer for a better look.  It was difficult to gain perspective because the dragline is a full football field in length!  We could see a chain like the one from our earlier picture.  It looked miniscule in comparison to the machine as a whole.  We watched the dragline take several scoop fulls and dump them.  The bucket on the dragline is capable of digging a average house basement in 1.5 scoops.

Again we boarded the bus and this time made our way to the load-out station where coal is loaded onto a 25 car train which hauls it to the Poplar River Power Plant.  There is an operations room located at the site where we witnessed this process. The rail line, engine, and cars are all owned, maintained and operated by Poplar River Mine.  They own their own real, life-sized train set.

On the final stage of our tour Ken drove our nice, white bus, onto the black, dirty, coal bed where we were given the opportunity to get out and walk around on the coal.  After collecting samples of the coal, observing the strata, and taking some pictures, it was back to the bus to head to the main office for lunch.

Luckily Guy and Steve showed up just in time. Rodney, Myles, and a few other special people  from the mine also stayed for a bite and shared their wealth of information with us during this wonderful meal. The cake and ice cream for dessert was delicious.

A special note must be made in full appreciation of Al, Amy, Jared, Cory, and Regan.  Our guides on the bus were extremely knowledgeable, approachable, and answered any question with clarity.  This made our tour so much more informative and enjoyable.

After a short description of some coal cores on the way out to the bus by Steve (and a serious attempt to clean the coal off our pants and steel-toed boots..Sorry Ken), we hit the road again. The second half of our day saw us end up at the Potash Interpretive Center in Esterhazy.  By this point we had been sitting on the bus for 866 kilometres.

Tara Fisher (group 1)
Curtis Hoffart (group 2) (both of us from Riffel High School in Regina)

Upon arriving at the Potash Interpretive Centre in Esterhazy, we split up into 2 groups based upon our attendance "roll call" numbers.  Yup, that's definitely a teacher thing!  The two groups alternated touring the centre and dining at Hazy's Family Restaurant where they had a delicious 'home-cooked' turkey dinner buffet prepared for us.  Group 2 was very jealous because Group 1 was the first to be stuffing themselves with stuffing (not to mention that they were better looking).

The Potash Interpretive Centre tours were given by two retired mine workers, John and Richard, who were both very knowledgeable and passionate about the industry.  The centre was very well set up with visually descriptive displays, models and videos.  Even without an actual tour guide we still would have learned a lot.  Having said that, we sure did pepper the tour guides with plenty of questions that they happily answered for us. It was very valuable to have this tour before touring the mine the next day, as we learned so much.

 Following the tours and supper we loaded the bus once again and headed for the metropolis of Moosomin.  After checking in at the CanAlta Hotel, the hotel staff were gracious enough to keep the pool and waterslide open for an extra hour for some of the group to enjoy.  Another full and enjoyable day!

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Day 4 of the SMA GeoVenture

Sarah Lipoth - Parkland College - Yorkton & Esterhazy campuses
Henry Ollegasagrem - Mining Engineering Technology Program, SIAST Kelsey Campus, Saskatoon
Erin Forbes - St.Walburg School

Tuesday morning began early with breakfast at the hotel, followed by loading up the bus.  Before we left town, a stop at the local Tim Horton's was in order.  Once we got on the highway, we were entertained with videos about the discovery of 'Scotty' the T-rex and the building of the T-rex discovery centre in Eastend.  We passed by some wind farms in the Gull Lake area and were able to see an interesting juxtaposition of oil wells and windmills amid fields of grain.

On arriving at the T-rex discovery centre, we were split into groups based on the age groups that we teach - elementary, secondary, and 'other'.  The 'other' group began our tour with some shopping time, followed by a screening of the video about Scotty (this time on a large screen), and then a guided tour through the exhibits that were on display.  Next, we participated in an activity involving making plastic casts of dinosaur teeth. While our casts were curing, we were challenged to identify whether various displays in the museum were actual fossils or replicas. We ended up with dinosaur tooth keychains to take home as souvenirs.  Then we joined the secondary group for a tour of the lab space where a number of researchers were working on a variety of fossils.

*Erin here - I'm just going to jump in and explain an archaeology activity that the elementary teachers got to experience while the other two groups were rotating through their centers.
In the front sidewalk of the Center, there is a circular pit of sand. Before we arrived at the Center, one of the employees had buried fossil replicas throughout the pit. We were given a 'dig map' (which was essentially a circle divided into 8 pie pieces), a pencil, a shovel, and a paint brush. We were told we were going to be digging for fossils and were explained the process that archaeologists use while in the field. The sand pit was divided into 8 pieces to match the map, using reflective tape to mark off each section. The instructions were to choose a quadrant and start digging. When we found a fossil, it was to be left exactly where it was found, and then recorded on the map. Some people drew a picture of each fossil, and some just named the fossil. We had no idea how big these fossils we were looking for were, but everyone just dove in and started digging. The fossils ranged from dinosaur eggs to the femur of a T-rex. It was a very creative activity that we all enjoyed. As we were digging, we were commenting that this would be a fairly easy activity to recreate for our students and we anticipated that they would get a lot of enjoyment, not to mention practical experience, from it!*

Lunch was catered and as usual consisted of large quantities of excellent food.  After lunch, the elementary teachers had an opportunity to finish some dinosaur tooth casts.  Those of us who had completed our teeth headed outside to draw landscapes of the Frenchman River Valley.  A few people also went searching for (and found) a nearby geocache.  After a few more photo-ops we got back on the bus and headed for our next destination.

Once we were done with T-Rex discovery center tour, Ken drove through the foothills of Cypress Hills to the Stage Coach Hotel in Willow Bunch (hi Mohammed). On the way, we stopped for a coffee break at the Co-Op gas station in Woodrow (we all played with three cute dogs!). Then Ken drove  to the Willow Bunch golf club at Jean Legere Park snaking through a shady and narrow gravel road safely. We were greeted by Sherritt Poplar River mine representatives Bruce, Dallas, Guy, Al, Jarad, Emily, Regan, Cory and Steve, In the meantime, we had a chance to meet Pam's family (husband and cute little kids) during our visit.

Following was a delicious BBQ (steak, salad and great deserts) in the patio behind golf club, Jared and Emily presented the Orientation and Guy presented the safety aspects. It was a nice presentation about the open pit mine at Poplar River (sequence of mining process and transport to the SaskPower station by train) with minimum disturbance to the environment considering the community, air quality, surface and ground water protection. Because of the interest of fellow colleagues alot of Q&A followed.

Then, at the end of the session Ken safely took us back to the motel. It was the end of a gorgeous day 4 in our educational trip by SMA GeoVenture.

Monday 20 August 2012

Day 3 of the SMA GeoVenture

Alexis Armit, Hudson Bay Composite High School

Today started with a continental breakfast at the Delta Bessborough followed by an informative presentation by Angus Errington from PotashCorp about potash.  Potash is a salt that is made up of a potassium and chloride (KCl) that is used for fertilizer as well as many other applications.  Potash is typically found about 1000m below surface in ore rich in iron oxide, clay and halite (NaCl).  After determining the presence of a deposit using seismic studies, a shaft is sunk, lined with cast iron and sealed with lead to avoid water from entering the mine from overlaying waterbearing formations.  The mining can now begin at depth.  This can be done in a few ways depending on the stability of the ore; in a grid-like pattern or if the ore is unstable due to the presence of clay, in a series of chevrons.  This was the plan of the Patience Lake operations until the mine became flooded and turned into a solution mine.

We checked out of the hotel and met Ken, our bus driver for the remainder of our trip.  He immediately struck a chord with our group with his sense of humour, Irish accent and desire to make our trip as great as possible.  He warned us about overusing the facilities on board and thankfully Keith stepped up to monitor (prevent) the usage of the washrooms. He collected a 2$ deposit on any beverage taken from the cooler which could be collected if you did not use the onboard washrooms. 

Ken carefully maneuvered the bus through the streets of Saskatoon and out to PotashCorp's operations at Patience Lake where we were greeted by Trevor Berg (GM of Patience Lake), two process engineers (Brett and Rob) and Elaine from Human Resources.  We enjoyed a short presentation and Q&A where most questions were focused on the KCl extraction process or the employment opportunities at Patience Lake.  Brett then boarded our bus and we explored the surface operations starting with the storage facilities and where the finished product was loaded into railcars for shipment to market.  We then started around the production ponds where the brine pumped out from underground is cooled to allow the KCl to precipitate out.  We then saw the pumps and pipes that send the brine back underground and the two burners that heat the brine to allow it to dissolve more KCl.  We continued around the ponds on a very narrow, precarious road to see the two dredges that remove the KCl slurry from the bottom of the production ponds.  At times it seemed as though the road was too small for the large bus but Ken's careful driving kept us out of the ponds!  The surface tour ended with a look at the tailings management area which consisted of a tailings pile (from prior underground mining operations), a small pond where any leachate from the tailings or surrounding area was collected and the pump that puts this salty water into deep injection wells over 2000m below surface.

We enjoyed a lunch of wraps and tasty desserts with several mine employees and we were given some teaching resources from Nutrients for Life, as well as golf balls, a silvinite (potash) sample, and some popcorn.

We boarded the bus to find out that we needed to go back to Saskatoon as the bus had a light that was not working and a couple people had forgotten things at the hotel.  After a visit to Tim Horton's, we were on our way to Moose Jaw.

Just outside of Moose Jaw, off of Hwy 1 and 39 we stopped to explore the side of the road where many crystals of a mystery mineral can be easily found in the soil.  We donned our safety vests and carefully crossed the road to begin collecting and making observations about the mineral's hardness, lustre, cleavage, and transparency.  We determined that the mineral was gypsum (OK, we did read it in the itinerary too!).

Back on the bus and after another stop at Tim Horton's we were on our way to Swift Current for dinner and the evening.  We checked in to the Holiday Inn Express and made our way to Boston Pizza for dinner.  After learning that our reservation had been lost, we decided to head just up the highway to Wong's Kitchen for Chinese food.  The food here was excellent and the service was top-notch!  I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Swift Current!

After dinner, we crossed back across the highway (relatively safely), walked back to the hotel and decided to check out the Living Sky Casino next door to the hotel with our free $10 vouchers courtesy of the hotel.  We signed up for Player's Club cards, got our coupons and found Ingrid and the 2cent slot machines.  Pam and Lorna were definitely out of their element but quickly caught on with Ingrid's help.  Most of us left with more than we started, and Ingrid enjoyed an especially lucky evening.

What a great day!   

Sunday 19 August 2012

Day 2 of the SMA GeoVenture

By Adam Jobb, Reindeer Lake School

Day 2 of the Saskatchewan Mining Association Geoventure Tour had us up in the wee hours of the morning, to go on a tour of Cameco's Rabbit Lake Mine.  We had a 2 hour flight via West Wind Aviation, the company that services the mines in Northern Saskatchewan.

Upon arrival at the mine site there was a bus waiting, which shuttled us to our first presentation, where we got our mine orientation and the safety briefing and instructions.  We were split into two different groups, with the first group going underground in the Eagle Point Mine and the second ground going on a tour of the mill.

I was part of group 2, so we hopped on a bus that whisked us of to the mill.  Upon arrival, we were given a presentation outlining the process of change that occurs, from the raw material, to the refined yellowcake.  When the presentation was done, we geared up and headed off on our tour.  It was an excellent first hand experience of uranium production.  Our facilitators did an awesome job to explain what was going on in the mill.  At the conclusion of the mill tour, we hopped on our bus which took us to the mine camp, where we had an excellent lunch.

After lunch it was our turn to go underground.  We were bussed to Eagle Point, where we boarded the underground trucks.  These underground trucks have cages on the back of them, in which the miners ride to get underground.  Our first stop underground, we were able to see a miner drilling blast holes.  The extraction method here is a drill and blast method.  Holes are drilled, the ore is blasted, and then the ore is transported to the surface where it is then taken to the mill.

At our next stop we were able to see the safety mesh being installed in the underground tunnels.  We were given a demonstration on how that was done.  We were able to take several pictures while we were down there.

The last stop before we came back up to the surface was the emergency shelter/lunch room.  We rinsed off our boots and went inside the shelter.  It was explained that, in case of an emergency, the workers underground could seek refuge at this station.   There is an air exchange system, along with food and water which will allow for survival, if needed.

The last part of our tour had everyone all together again.  We were given a bus tour which highlighted the environmental aspect of the Rabbit Lake Mine.  We were shown the tailings pit, the water treatment ponds, and the reclamation work that is being done.

Last but not least we stopped by the exploration center.  There we were shown different tools and ore samples.  We also were briefed on the different exploration techniques that are currently employed by the exploration teams.

On the return flight, our flight was slightly diverted to the east, were we flew over Southend,

 and were able to spot Deep Bay, a huge, deep, round body of water which was created by the impact of a meteor, millions of years ago.  Continuing our flight path to Saskatoon, we were also able to see the Seabee Gold Mine from the air.

A little over an hour later, we landed safely back in Saskatoon, exhausted from a long, long day.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Day 1 of the SMA GeoVenture

August 18, 2012
By: Richelle Sutton, PA Carlton 

Welcome everyone to the 2012 Saskatchewan Mining Association Rock'n the Classroom GeoVenture Teacher's Tour Blog! Today marks our first day of this week long journey to better understand the geological phenomenon in our province. As educators we will take this newly acquired knowledge back to our students and explore the ways curriculum is connected to mining. 

We began our tour with an orientation and introduction. Pam Schwann, Executive Director of  the SMA, introduced our educational and curriculum consultant Kate Grapes Yeo and technology guru Tracey Irwin. The teacher attendees introduced themselves and indicated what subjects, and where they teach. We discovered that we have a very diverse group that call all corners of the province home.

Pam kicked off our introduction to mining in Saskatchewan. We discovered that Saskatchewan is a global leader in Potash and Uranium production. In addition to Potash and Uranium mining valuable resources such as gold, coal, and diamonds are also mined in the province. The economic development that will positively influence our province will have a direct influence on the students we teach. In the future our students could potentially be involved in the mining industry.

Pam then handed off the presentation to Kate, who took the presentation from an economic angle to one of curriculum connections to mining. The teacher participants were able to take part in a mineral and rock identification activity. Each table was given a number of samples that we needed to categorize based on a dichotomous key. This activity directly related to the grade 4 and 7 science curriculum. We then looked at two solutions of potash and water that had been placed on our tables. We discussed how these two jars could be utilized in the grade 7 curriculum when looking at mixtures. The two jars were an excellent example of how mixtures will separate based on properties of the minerals in the mixture.

Our evening concluded with a BBQ behind the DeltaBessborough on the river bank. We were lucky enough to be introduced to some members in the mining industry from Cameco, PotashCorp and Mosaic. After supper it was off to bed as we had a very early day ahead of us the next morning.