November 2011    Print this article

The UQAT-UQAM Chair in Mining Entrepreneurship

Andrea Amortegui, Robert Marquis and Joëlle Boudigou,
Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune (MRNF)
Suzanne Durand,
Université du Québec en Abitibi,
Département des sciences de la gestion
Michel Jébrak,
Université du Québec à Montréal,
Département des sciences de la Terre et de l'Atmosphère

The Chair in Mining Entrepreneurship is an initiative launched by Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) and Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), with strong support from the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune (MRNF). The Chair itself is an innovative partnership bringing together experts from several fields of management and the earth sciences, entrepreneurs, managers, and professionals from various sectors including the MRNF.

The objective of the Chair is to promote the growth of Québec firms involved in exploration, and to provide entrepreneurship development support to help them move on to the next stages in the process, namely extraction and processing. Training for mining entrepreneurs must take into account the realities of the sector, which requires extensive experience in the field, a range of highly specialized knowledge, the ability to manage a high level of risk over the short and long terms, and access to specific types of financing.

The Chair in the Québec context

The mining industry plays an essential role in Québec. In addition to its economic and social importance in terms of jobs and exports, it helps to structure regional development. The expertise developed in mineral exploration and extraction has made Québec a leader in the international field. However, in recent years, there has been a shortage of entrepreneurs able to lead projects forward and create wealth. There is sometimes more capital available than suitable projects, despite Québec’s recognized potential.

This lack of entrepreneurs appears to have been caused, in particular, by the collapse of the mining sector in the early 2000s when many competent individuals had to redirect their careers, by the lack of attractiveness of the sector for young people used to city life, and by the separation of the technical and management aspects. In addition, the current challenges of the mining sector (resource diversification, financiarization, social acceptance, etc.) require operators to adopt new approaches and acquire new learning, without being able to rely on training centres in Québec to meet their needs.

To reverse this situation, the industry must attract young, competent players and develop their management and mining entrepreneurship skills. With this goal in mind, UQAT and UQAM have pooled their expertise to create the Chair in Mining Entrepreneurship, as a concrete way to move towards the shared goal of increasing Québec participation in the mining industry. The specific requirements of the mining sector do not support a classic research and training approach. Instead, the main focus must be on field work, the ability to combine highly specialized knowledge with a functional approach to interdisciplinarity, and the management of large-scale risk over the short and long term. Several similar initiatives have been launched in Ontario (U of T, Lassonde Entrepreneurship Series), South Africa (Abanqobi) and Australia (Brisbane, Perth). They are based on the integration, for research and training purposes, of technical innovation and organizational management components, with research into best entrepreneurial practice. This type of approach is not currently available in Québec, where the fields of science and management remain compartmentalized. The reality of the mining sector, as reflected in the career paths of its leading players, shows that two skill sets are required to succeed. In addition to the simple juxtaposition of knowledge, it is important to be able to integrate the two components with business strategy. To take advantage of the opportunities offered by emerging markets, Québec must quickly make up for lost time.

The Chair will give Québec a way to implement the Québec Mineral Strategy1, which emphasizes the importance of providing support for mining entrepreneurship in order to create wealth and prepare for the future of the mining sector in keeping with the principles of sustainable development. The Chair:

  1. Will allow Québec to exercise leadership in an approach based on sustainable development
  2. Will become an indispensable tool for the promotion of innovation and the creation of wealth in connection with the mining industry
  3. Will help define best practices for both mining techniques and managerial approaches, in particular concerning financing methods, business models and organizations processes
  4. Will ensure the necessary synergy with industry partners, to allow Québec to exercise leadership over the long term in the new globalized context for mineral resource extraction

The Chair and the MRNF

In the Mineral Strategy released in 2009, the Québec government clearly indicated its goal of strengthening Québec mining entrepreneurship while continuing to provide funding for mining development through the Société d’investissement dans la diversification de l’exploration (SIDEX) and for diversification through the Société québécoise d’exploration minière (SOQUEM). By working with the Chair in Mining Entrepreneurship in a research partnership, the MRNF will contribute actively to one of the key objectives of the Québec Mineral Strategy. This association will make it possible:

In short, the research partnership with the UQAT-UQAM Chair in Mining Entrepreneurship will enable the MRNF to implement a key element in the Mineral Strategy, promote the emergence and development of new Québec firms in the fields of mineral exploration, extraction and processing, and confirm Québec’s position as one of the world’s leading mining regions, while promoting respect for the environment and the enrichment of local communities.

The Chair and other partners

The Chair will seek financial support from private and institutional partners in various spheres of activity. The two chair holders will gradually create connections with other researchers in the two founding universities and other university-level institutions, and will develop close collaborative ties with other chairs and research groups. The representatives of several organizations working in various fields have been approached to propose potential partnerships with the Chair, either in the form of expertise for training and research, or in the form of financial contributions.

Funding and operation of the Chair

Three main partners will provide funding in equal shares over a five-year period, for a total of over $2 million:

The Chair will be located at UQAT and directed by two titular chair-holders, selected by their respective universities for their competency and interest in the field. Michel Jébrak, Ph. D., is the chair-holder for UQAM, and Suzanne Durand, DBA, is the chair-holder for UQAT. Two representatives of the Québec government will sit on the administrative committee, and one MRNF representative will sit on the scientific committee.

Past and present activities and research projects

The first training activity of the UQAT-UQAM Chair in Mining Entrepreneurship took place on December 6, 2010 when a two-hour talk was given by one of the two chair-holders, Michel Jébrak (UQAM). The talk focused on globalization in the mining industry, and was organized jointly with the UQAT masters-level business administration (MBA) program for senior managers. It was presented simultaneously by videoconference link in three cities in the Abitibi region, Val-d’Or, Rouyn-Noranda and Amos, and was also webcast. It can be viewed on the UQAT website.

The Chair’s research projects are listed below. For more information on future activities, go to www.uqat.ca/cem or write to entrepreneuriat.minier@uqat.ca.

Research projects

Mineral exploration firms in Québec

Mineral exploration firm performance

Success factors for mineral exploration firms

Mineral exploration financing

Assistance available for mineral exploration entrepreneurs in Québec

The role of globalization in the development of mining companies

The availability of geological data

Assessment the performance of an innovation

The mining industry value chain

Innovations in mining

Table 1. Chair research projects

The Chair is a pole of excellence that will attract, retain and train effective researchers and entrepreneurs. It will help develop the entrepreneurial skills of people in the exploration industry. Special attention will be paid to training for people already working in the mining sector who wish to acquire or upgrade mining project management skills. The Chair will also promote the emergence of a new generation of Québec mining entrepreneurs, aware of the importance of ensuring that mine development is responsible and sustainable. It will be a key stakeholder in the implementation of the government objective of developing resources while stimulating job creation and creating collective wealth, in a partnership with local communities.


1: Preparing the Future of Québec’s Mineral Sector : Québec Mineral Strategy. Gouvernement du Québec, 2009, page 24.

 

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© Gouvernement du Québec, 2011