MINING At U of T: Celebrating almost 130 Years of Mining Education at U of T
Today, the Mineral Engineering Program demonstrates the same spirit and enthusiasm for mining that has enabled it to thrive since 1878, when “mining” made its first appearance as “Assaying and Applied Geology”, soon to become “Mining Engineering” under the auspices of School of Practical Science in 1892. In its first several decades, the Engineering Faculty did not require anything close to the level of research which is produced today, and most professors maintained a professional engineering practice along with heavy teaching loads that, in many cases, amounted to upwards of twenty hours of lecturing per week. That was to change, but not until other major shifts occurred.
The Mining Engineering program continued unimpeded until the mid-1960s, when the department and its course were terminated. As an except from Richard White’s The Skule Story: The
This was a change carried out against strong opposition; participants recall the debates on this being among the Faculty’s most acrimonious in years. Mining went back to the earliest days of the school, and the rugged life of the mining engineer still epitomized traditional engineering. But too much had changed for it to fit into a modern engineering school. A mining engineer had always been a generalist, with no distinct scientific subject at the heart of his specialty. As a result, although there was plenty of consulting in the department, there was next to no research. Aspects of mining that lent themselves to engineering research – rock mechanics, mine ventilation, the chemistry of refining, the mechanics of pumping slurries – all belonged in other engineering specialties. Mining engineering had no ground on which to stand in a research-centered establishment (p. 202). Furthermore, the Faculty’s new academic staff, who nearly all had PhDs and who were inspired much more by the future than the past, saw mining engineering as rather
un-academic and backward. On top of these matters of principle, enrolment in the course had been falling for years, and by the mid-sixties was next to nothing. (p. 203)
Three recommendations were made: the program was to be terminated; other departments in the Faculty were to be urged to carry out the research applicable to the industry; and the course offered in Applied Geology was to be reworked into a course in Geological Engineering, but with closer ties to the Department of Geology in the Faculty of Arts and Science. The recommendations were accepted, and where there was an end, there was also a beginning – of a future of collaboration between mining and geology that continues today.
After a series of name changes between 1965 and 2000 (Geological Engineering; Geological Engineering and Applied Earth Science; Geo-Engineering; Geological and Mining Engineering), the program was finally named Mineral Engineering. And, with the generous assistance in 2000 of Dr. Pierre Lassonde, then-president and CEO of Franco-Nevada (now Newmont Mining Corp.), the program was rejuvenated with an influx of scholarship and bursary funds, a named Chair, and an industry profile that is central to the placement of graduates and the role of the Department’s research initiatives.
The Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering’s Lassonde Mineral Engineering Program is thus among the oldest and most established programs at the