Events, Waterloo

Waterloo Takes on Saskatoon – World Mining Competition 2019

This October, Waterloo participated in the 8th annual World Mining Competition (WMC) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This year’s theme was “Driving Global Innovation”, and students competing were encouraged to think about innovation in mining and technology when putting together their solutions for the case study.

I think my teammate Breanna summed up the weekend pretty well: “WMC was definitely an exhausting but amazing experience. This was my first time participating in any type of university competition and I wasn’t too sure what to expect, thankfully we had a few returning members on our team which helped a lot. Looking back on the experience now I’m glad I decided to go, not only did I get to visit Saskatchewan for the first time, but I had the opportunity to meet students from around Canada and the world. Additionally, who doesn’t want to spend 36 hours with three of your good friends on minimal sleep trying to understand mining financials…”.

The WMC is unlike many engineering competitions you hear about, the closest facsimile in something like the Waterloo Engineering Competition is the Consulting category, where teams are given a case study problem and told to design a solution and sell the judges that yours is the best one. It simulates, in some ways, how consulting companies might bid on projects in the real world, putting together a design pitch to try to win the contract. At WMC, though, each team has already “been hired”, you’re not pitching to do the solution, you’re advising financiers or company executives on what they should be doing based on the data and criteria you were given.

In past years this has involved determining the potential of a mine site, advising on moving company headquarters to Canada, and this year it involved a lot of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and finances. Mining today is a vastly different industry than it was even 15 years ago, constant improvement is being done about CSR in the mining industry. This is particularly true in Canada where we are attempting to improve relationships with indigenous groups, but in many countries,  there is a still a long way to go to improve relationships with communities and mining companies. This year, we were tasked with a case study that involved a company operating a mine in the DRC and their financiers who were squeamish about working in such an unstable country. The mine had a problem with people, including children, coming onto the property and illegally mining in “artisanal” mine shafts with no safety regulations. Recently there had been an accident in one of these illegal mines and several people, including children had died. It was our job to tell the financiers what the position of the company would be if they continued in the DRC vs. leaving and trying to develop a property the company had bought in Canada.

If you’re thinking “how do you prepare for something like this?” the answer is, you can’t really. The most important thing is to have numbers that make sense, confidence in your solution, and really good presentation skills! The final presentation was the culmination of the 36 hours of case study resolution, but on top of that we had smaller competitions as well including a PR challenge, a minute-to-win-it games night, and time to consult with industry professionals about our case.

This was my second year competing at WMC, but half our team of Geological Engineers was new. If you’re considering joining the Waterloo team for next year, here’s another testimonial from my teammate Liam:

“The World Mining Competitions provided me with both the opportunity to network with industry professionals, and fellow students from across Canada and internationally. The 36-hour case study resolution challenged my team with a multi-faceted mining challenge where financial, engineering, and social responsibility had to be delicately balanced to arrive at the most appropriate solution. The two days spent on the resolution provided me with an excellent opportunity to work on my financial and economic analysis skills and I left with a greater appreciation for their importance in the engineering decision making process.  Although we didn’t win, I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to represent the University of Waterloo and the Geological Engineering program at the World Mining Competition in Saskatoon.”

WMC is a great way to meet industry professionals and get a good look at what takes place within the mining industry. I’ve found it an extremely valuable experience both years I’ve participated and I would encourage anyone who’s interested in mining to go to the competition and get your feet wet!

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