The Society of Economic Geologists Foundation (SEGF) Student Field Trip Program was established in 2006 and is one of three core SEGF programs. The purpose of this stand-alone program is “to encourage and develop a new generation of economic geology students.” The program provides SEG student members with the opportunity to visit and view first-hand major and/or emerging mines and mining districts, emphasizing ore deposit geology, the interrelationships of exploration and mine geology, and the economics of mining the deposits being visited. The trips are centred on mine and corresponding mine-site geology and discovery outcrops. Previous trips were held in Chile, Peru, Portugal, Spain, the western United States, Ontario and Quebec. The 2016 field trip showcased porphyry deposits of central and southern British Columbia.
Between 2006 and 2016, 15 student trips have been completed, with a total of 237 student participants representing 99 universities and 30 countries. The SEGF has provided more than $515,000 to subsidize the costs of these trips. Student field trips typically comprise nine consecutive days, with seven of those in the field. The SEGF pays 90 to 95 per cent of student participants’ costs, including travel to and from the points of origin and conclusion of the field trip, travel by charter motor coach, accommodation and most meals during the field trip. Trips are designed for 16 students (typically senior undergraduates and junior graduate students), up to four professionals (acting in the role of mentors) and two trip leaders. The SEGF Student Field Trip Program Committee, through its headquarters in Littleton, Colorado, co-ordinates implementation and other aspects of these trips, including the selection of student and professional participants. SEG student members worldwide who are actively enrolled at an accredited university are eligible to apply for participation. The selection process for both students and professional mentors is competitive.
The field trips are organized and led by senior SEG members with appropriate experience and recognized expertise in the geology of the mining districts included in the field trips. The leaders arrange access to the individual mines and/or deposits and ensure mine geology personnel are available to interact with the students.
The 15th SEG student field trip (SFT 15) was held August 17 to 25, 2016, and visited a varied group of seven major porphyry deposits of copper, gold, silver and/or molybdenum in central and southern British Columbia. The trip was co-sponsored by the SEGF and the SEG Canada Foundation. Led by Jim Logan and Tom Schroeter, the group transected the central Stikine, Cache Creek and much of the Quesnel terranes over the course of seven days and 2,000 kilometres. A 110-page guidebook prepared for the trip, Porphyry Systems of Central and Southern British Columbia (SEG Guidebook 52), presented summary descriptions of the mines and projects visited, giving participants a framework of the complex geology and mineralization at each site.
SFT 15 started in Smithers with a welcoming reception sponsored by the Smithers Exploration Group. The students then visited five operating mines (Huckleberry, Gibraltar, New Afton, Highland Valley Copper and Copper Mountain) and two advanced projects (Maggie and Woodjam), and finally ended in Vancouver. Visits to the operating mines presented different mining methods and geological characteristics, which included access to open pit exposures; an underground modified block-caving operation at New Afton; drill cores and outcrops focused on illustrating the characteristic porphyry mineral assemblage zonation of ore-forming minerals; and alteration assemblages generated by the multiple intrusive/hydrothermal events common to these deposits.
At each site, presentations by mine and exploration staff reviewed geology, geochemical and geophysical signatures, ore reserve estimation, resource evaluation and the site’s specific mining operations. While a visit to Mount Polley Mine was not on the agenda, the geology of the mine was presented during an evening lecture in Williams Lake and the deposit description was included in the guidebook. Along the way, several formal and informal discussions highlighted the contrasting ages and characteristics of calc-alkaline and alkaline porphyry systems, both of which are remarkably well represented in British Columbia.
The last evening in Manning Park featured a wrap-up technical discussion along with the traditional SEGF-hosted closing dinner and the presentation of certificates of completion to field trip participants. This farewell gathering successfully cemented the camaraderie developed over the trip among the students and between the students and professionals.
Testimonials submitted by participants attest to the success of the trip in all respects. The students acknowledged the step change in their understanding of porphyry systems over the course of the trip. Many also commented on the welcoming and supportive nature of the geological community in British Columbia, recognizing the importance of meeting and establishing networks with the wide variety of people associated with all stages of exploration, mine development and production. Some specifically mentioned returning to British Columbia in the future to pursue a career in exploration and/or mine operations. These are future leaders in the worldwide mining industry – we wish them all the best of luck in their continued studies and look forward to welcoming them into the industry.