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We spoke with McGill University mining engineering student Saleh Ewan, who recently completed a co-op work term. During his term, he also took advantage of the natural landscape: hiking, skiing, and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains near Fernie, BC.

Saleh's employer was Teck Resources Limited (Teck), Canada's largest diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development. Teck has business units focused on copper, steelmaking coal, zinc, and energy. Saleh spent his work term as a mining engineer co-op student, working for Teck's coal division near Sparwood, BC. The work term gave him the opportunity to gain hands-on mine site experience, as well as the opportunity to live in the Rocky Mountains.

I'm from Bangladesh, says Saleh. We have small mountains, but not as high as here ... when I first came here I was stunned. Teck's work culture strongly values work-life balance, providing students at their steelmaking coal operations with a common ÔÇÿEarned Day Off' schedule, consisting of a nine-hour work day, resulting in a long weekend every other week. During Saleh's time away from work, he was able to enjoy skiing in the winter, while enjoying fishing, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting in the summer. His work experience truly allowed him to widen his appreciation for Canada's great outdoors.

There are many opportunities at Teck for students seeking work experience in the mining sector. Teck's co-op program intakes students from across Canada in January, May, and September terms, maintaining a workforce of over 50 students and providing diverse work experiences across a broad range of disciplines, including engineering, business management programs, and information systems.

Teck prides itself on its focus on safety, sustainability, and supporting the communities where it operates. This focus is reflected in Teck's mining practices, culture, and people.

Armed with an early interest in engineering, Saleh decided to research what engineering sectors in Canada were in highest demand. He discovered that mining engineering is an expanding industry with strong job prospects, and a combination of both office and field work. Mining itself is a challenging career; you can never predict what's going to happen, he explains. It's a challenging job with lots of opportunities and I felt like [my co-op] matches how I want to be in the future: travelling countries, working outside, and also doing desk work'a good blend.

Spending four days driving from Montr├®al, Quebec to Fernie, BC, Saleh got to see both the urban and rural sides of Canada. When I first came here, every time I saw a deer I'd say ÔÇÿoh stop the car'there's a deer,' and I'd see a mountain and say ÔÇÿwow, they're so big.' These sights soon became commonplace as he began exploring his new town.

And not only during his free time did Saleh enjoy the natural wonders. During his co-op term at Teck, he was stationed at the top of a mountain and was able to view the magnificent scenery while on the job. It's not like you're stressed at work, he says. You can enjoy the view and work.

With primary duties that included working in the Survey, Geology, and Geotechnical departments, Saleh describes his learning experience as positive. Although he initially worried that his co-workers might judge him negatively for asking too many questions, he says actually it's not the case. My co-workers were really helpful.

Saleh adds that they were understanding of the fact that he's still a student and encouraged him to speak up if he didn't comprehend something. Communication and the courage to speak up are traits that Teck seeks in its people, and extends to Teck's safety culture.

Although thoroughly enjoying his time spent in the mountains, Saleh is excited about the many career prospects and work locations the mining industry has to offer. "People say that mining is in the middle of nowhere, you have to work underground, and it's like no man's land," he says, but don't listen to those rumours, because they're not true.

Saleh presents a modern outlook on mining that illustrates that opportunities in the mining industry can range from field work to corporate offices.  Saleh's co-op term at Teck has allowed him to gain mentorship from professional engineers in the mining sector, and has given him inspiring insight into the opportunities that exist for him upon graduation.

If you do a co-op term, it lets you know what you will be doing in the near future, he says. If you're thinking about going into mining, go for it.

Photo: Saleh Ewan/Thinkstock