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NWCC Mining Program Wins Two Awards

At the Northern British Columbia Business and Technology Awards ceremony Jan. 22 in Prince George, Northern BCs business and technical community twice honoured a unique program that trained First Nations students in remote mineral exploration bush camps. The Reclamation and Prospecting (RAP) program at Northwest Community College (NWCC) School of Exploration& Mining won the Sustainability Award, which was sponsored by Rio Tinto Alcan, and the Mentor Award, which was sponsored by Initiatives Prince George. In 2007 and 2008, the two-year RAP program trained and prepared First Nations students to work in the exploration and mining industry. During the program, students lived and learned in the same bush camp conditions they experience when they work in the industry. One year after the first RAP program, 85% of the First Nations graduates were employed. The Sustainability Award was presented to an organization that has developed a unique way to maintain a clean environment. RAP was recognized for its emphasis on teaching environmental assessment and monitoring skills. RAP follows the Environmental Excellence in Exploration best practices, as developed by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, according to Christine Ogryzlo, a director with the schools industry partner, Smithers Exploration Group. These are national guidelines that ensure the mineral exploration industry protects the land where it works. The Mentor Award went to the RAP program because of its extensive use of mentors and team leaders throughout the nine-week course. Each camp employed five experienced First Nations team leaders who acted as mentors to the students, helping them with assignments and the challenges of a new industry. Each camp also had a resident elder who acted as a mentor on cultural matters. Kirby Muldoe of the Gitxsan Nation was a team leader at the Ganokwa Camp near Smithers. I found the task of the team leader to be very rewarding both for the students and myself. Muldoe said. It was not always easy for the students to be away from home, learning about an industry they werent very familiar with. Having someone to turn to on a personal level really seemed to help. We are thrilled that the business community has recognized the value brought to the North by the NWCC School of Exploration & Mining, says Margo Van der Touw, NWCC Dean of Trades, Continuing Education & Industry Training. These awards highlight two of the most important aspects of RAP our emphasis on environmental excellence and one-on-one, hands-on training. A revised version of RAP has been developed to focus even more on environmental work. It is called the Environmental Monitor Assistant Program (EMAP). The program will continue to employ team leaders to mentor the next class of students. EMAP will run July and August 2009 at the Ganokwa camp.

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