After years of talk about creating a mining education center at the Great Basin College in Elko, it looks like the idea is becoming a reality this year.
“We are all thrilled,” Joyce Helens, president of Great Basin College, said this month.
Helens said the Nevada Mining Center for Excellence, which is planned for the National Guard Armory building across from the college in Elko, is the result of a successful collaboration between Great Basin College and the University of Nevada, Reno’s Mackay School. of Earth. Science and Engineering, formerly the Mackay School of Mines.
The ball kicked off in the college’s acquisition of the National Guard Armory Building when the Elko City Council recently approved a Letter of Intent on Transfer of Ownership involving the Board of Regents. , the Land Division of the State of Nevada, the state land registrar. , and the National Guard. The city council was the first to sign the letter of intent, and council members expressed their excitement for the Armory building to become a Nevada mining center of excellence.
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State Land Registrar Charles Donohue was at the council meeting and said he supports the transfer of ownership. Troy Miller, the NUR’s director of real estate, said the National Guard is fully on board with moving forward.
Miller agreed with a comment that for a transaction involving a group of government entities, Armory ownership agreement seems to happen fairly quickly.
“It’s nice that we can all work together for such good use of the property,” he said. “Great Basin College has been a great partner to work with to move this forward for the community.”
The letter of intent states that the Nevada System of Higher Education will pay up to $190,434 to cover the Guard’s debt for improvements to the property, plus up to $10,000 to cover transfer and relocation costs. fencing.
Sonja Sibert, Vice President of Commercial Affairs at GBC, said: “I anticipate by the end of 2022, hopefully sooner, the acquisition will be complete.”
The Amory Building measures 10,404 square feet. The property also has two storage buildings; one is 2,160 square feet and the other is 252 square feet.
The building is the right size for the Mining Center of Excellence, Helens said. There are rooms that can be used as classrooms and offices, and there is a large open area that will be ideal for training sessions or other uses.
“It’s just very well suited,” she said.
The building is ready for use as is, but there may be renovations and upgrades in the future as the needs of the new mining education center become clearer.
Sibert said they were looking at a potential $500,000 investment in the renovations.
The letter of intent includes a description of the mission of the new mining education center:
“The Nevada Mining Center for Excellence would seek to strengthen collaborative engagement, innovation, research activities, and educational activities for the future of mining in Nevada. Through these activities, GBC and UNR intend to provide skills enhancement opportunities to the workforce currently employed in Elko County, in the form of contract training or other professional development with courses, seminars and workshops, as well as business, financial and IT training. . GBC and UNR would also use the real estate for GBC professional development courses and seminars (for mining and non-mining professional development), with STEM community interactions and workshops, as well as for teacher development and educational opportunities. for K-12 students. ”
Helens said the Nevada Mining Center for Excellence is the result of a collaboration that has grown in recent years between Great Basin College, UNR and the Mackay School. When she came to GBC as President about five years ago, she saw the potential of what could be achieved.
“Even though we had been a leader in tactical training with the mining industry for decades – with great success – I did not see that we had a close relationship or connection with the research and development of the Mackay School of Mines,” Helens said. “I found that interesting, because it would be a natural collaboration.”
She met Marc Johnson, who was then president of the UNR.
“We talked about what we do, in terms of our missions and our overlapping missions,” Helens said. “And I told him that I really didn’t feel like a competitor, because I never felt that there were ‘your students’ and ‘my students’, these are our students in the state of Nevada. . It really put us, I think, on a great path. Because he said, I’m all for the collaboration; let’s do it.”
They started out with relatively small collaborations, like a shared phone system. But even that saved a lot of money for GBC.
When Brian Sandoval became president of the UNR, Helens said, the focus on beneficial collaborations increased even further.
“He has such an intimate knowledge of the state and an appreciation – I would even say a dedication – for our rural and border areas. No explanation was needed. He got it.
“When we sat down with our leadership teams – and we meet regularly – we were able to say, OK, what worked, and how can we continue to grow, and move into academic and student affairs, and collaborate there, and then also, what other areas are natural to us?
“And I brought up the idea of the Nevada Mining Center for Excellence. He was so supportive.
Helens said the Mackay School’s new principal, Annie Huhta, was also involved in the planning.
“We started getting together with other partners and saying, what can it be? It would be about working together to improve services and add value to the mining industry. It wasn’t about telling the mining industry what it needed, it was about listening and then being able to adapt to that, and not only the research and development needed, but also the training tactical.
“For me, it was a natural marriage. There was no competition, it was the best kind of collaboration.
“I think when we see this real deep collaboration between the university and Great Basin, it says something to the industry. We are not in competition; we say together that we will serve you better. And that does not mean that someone is less. It’s not like the UNR is taking over, or anything like that. It’s just that UNR has a long history at the Mackay School of Mines in developing successful people to work in the industry. And Great Basin College has over 50 years of producing a skilled workforce with technical training for industry. So if we get together and talk to each other and the industry, it can only be better.
“Nobody takes over. We say, we work for our students; it’s still GBC and it’s still UNR.
“But for me, it all started here in the 1800s in Elko. And for me, the circle is complete. It’s bringing everything together so that we are not disparate, we are unified.
Helens also pointed out that the best time for the college to make adjustments to its business plan is when it is experiencing success.
” We succeed. We are viable now, even after a terrible recession, even after a terrible pandemic and budget cuts. We were cut off 12% which we did not recover. But we are still on an upward trajectory and we are solid. But there is still time to consider changes to our business plan. And that’s why collaborations with UNR are so important.
Meeting with the industry
Helens said he considered several possible sites for the Nevada Mining Center for Excellence, including the college’s satellite centers at Winnemucca and Battle Mountain. But GBC has long considered the possibility of acquiring the Armory building in Elko. Obtaining ownership was a somewhat complicated process, due to National Guard, state, and city involvement. But acquiring the property has recently become feasible.
A few months ago, Helens said, people from GBC, UNR and Nevada Gold Mines visited the Armory building and they agreed it would be the perfect location for the college’s new mining center.
As the folks at GBC and UNR discussed the possibilities, Helens said, they had dinner with Barrick Gold Chairman Mark Bristow and other members of the Nevada Gold Mines management team.
“And they said, ‘We’re here with you for this. We will contribute and help make this happen. So that was very important to us, obviously,” Helens said.
“In April, we’ll have our listening session with the industry, and then we’ll sort through the ideas with them and say, what do you need there? What we envision is a one stop shop for any type of training or education needed by the mining industry.
Having the new mining education center at Great Basin College can help inspire more people from rural Nevada to decide to get the education they need to join the mining industry. Sometimes when people from urban areas come to work in the mining sector, it’s not a good choice and they leave, which can be costly for the mining company.
“When you have a rural population that loves working here and understands it, and being able to continuously provide opportunities for growth, that’s part of building healthy communities,” Helens said.
Helens said that when speaking to lawmakers and others in Nevada, she often had to explain to them the realities of rural areas in the state and the importance of mining to the whole of the state. ‘State.
She said that sometimes economic development officials in urban areas of the state say rural areas need to get more economic diversification rather than just focusing on mining.
“What I said to lawmakers is that I make no apologies for wanting to serve mining, or even upping the ante here with a mining center of excellence, because this is a a thriving and dynamic industry that changes all the time. And I said, for example, now you have rooms full of coders, you have autonomous vehicle development bigger than any room we’re sitting in. And these require very specialized skills, and we can help provide the skilled labor for this.
“So there is nothing to apologize for. We realize mining is out there, and when it’s done right and we’re part of it, it provides healthy communities.
“I think the Mining Center for Excellence, if it’s in Elko, just supports that and says we’re on board with the mining industry and the suppliers, and we’re going to be there, not just after the wave, to respond , but we will be there developing with him.
“I’m pretty passionate about it, I’m excited about it, and that’s important.”