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By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

Mine training reinforces northern bonds

Yukon, Alaska seek international accord to create work force development program that meets standards on both sides of the border


Last updated 10/28/2012 at Noon

A work force development agreement struck between Alaska and Yukon Territory in October belies the international border that separates these Far North mining jurisdictions.

The accord, signed by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Yukon Department of Education, aims to draw from the strengths of the mine training programs offered on both sides of the 750-mile (1,200 kilometers) border.

"Alaska and Yukon have some very similar work force needs. With this agreement, we can work together to coordinate and develop world-class training to fill these needs," Alaska Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Dianne Blumer said. "Both the University of Alaska and Yukon College have specialized mine training programs that can benefit from coordination."

Since the close of the 19th Century, an era when gold drew waves of prospectors to Alaska and Yukon, mining has been an integral component of the economic health of these northern neighbors. This commonality has created a bond forged in frontier spirit and quenched in a need for 21st Century miners.

"There is mutual benefit for Yukon and Alaska to share mining-related educational programming and information," Yukon Education Minister Scott Kent said. "This memorandum of agreement provides an opportunity for further cooperation in the pursuit of our similar needs and interests."

The mine training agreement is an extension of the Alaska-Yukon Intergovernmental Relations Accord signed by Gov. Sean Parnell and Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski in June, a cooperative agreement focused on promoting beneficial job training, energy production and economic development.

"Resource development, expansion of energy options, improvement and maintenance of roads, and the need for jobs, particularly for our youth and rural residents, are issues that Yukon and Alaska share, along with our 1,200-kilometre-long border," said Pasloski.

The June accord extends "special bonds of friendship and cooperation" between these northern frontier neighbors.

"Alaska and Yukon share a long and unique history of working together on broad-ranging issues like tourism marketing and wildfire management," Parnell said. "Alaskans and Yukoners benefit from this link in many sectors. There is significant potential in our economic region to reduce the costs of energy for residents as well as provide energy for the development of our natural resources. We will continue to work with Yukon to review the ways we can accomplish this."

Both leaders agreed that the initial focus moving forward will be on mining and energy. Alaska and Yukon have seen exploration and development of several significant mines in the last five years. Roughly US$600 million was spent on mineral exploration in these neighboring mining regions in 2012 and a number of new mines in Alaska and Yukon are on the docket for the coming decade.

In order to fill the jobs this activity is expected to create with Alaskans and Yukoners, the strengthened partnership between the University of Alaska and Yukon College aims to develop a shared underground and surface mine training program that meets industry standards on both sides of the border.

"Mine training provides a solid cornerstone for our desire to expand reciprocal opportunities between Yukon College and University of Alaska," Yukon College president Karen Barnes said. "There is a tradition of excellent industrial training in Juneau, and we hope to learn a great deal from our partners there."

Officials from Yukon College toured the University of Alaska's Underground Mine Training Program during their October visit to Juneau.


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