Alumnus Lawrence Smith on mining, mentorship and mastering your craft 

University of Toronto Alumnus Lawrence Devon Smith (Civil 7T2) was honoured by Women In Mining Canada with the Rick Hutson Mentorship Award.

Lawrence Devon Smith is a mining engineer who has worked in the mining industry for more than 40 years in economic evaluations and project engineering, and as an adjunct professor at his alma mater, U of T. 

Larry has mentored countless students and young engineers over the course of his career, culminating in this most recent honour from Women In Mining Canada.

“I was honoured and flattered to receive this award. It was quite a surprise and very much appreciated,” said Smith.  

The longtime engineer says he benefitted greatly from mentors early in his career, and so he never hesitated to pick up the mantle himself and help the next generation.  

Larry Smith at Gull Lake Camp in 1970.

“When you share knowledge or an insight with a mentee, you often learn something from them as well. Mentorship is a two-way street.”  

In terms of the role of women in engineering, and particularly in mining, Smith has witnessed a significant transformation of the industry since his student days.

“I recall there were only two women in my graduating class in 1972.  Now when you walk into an engineering classroom or a mining convention event it’s not surprising to see equal numbers of women and men working, studying or presenting.”  

New Engineering Program  

Smith’s next project in collaboration with Prof. Kamran Esmaeili, is the creation of an online master’s of engineering program and professional development online courses through CivMin.  

The Mining Industry Management Program (MIMP) is planning to launch later this year. 

The goal of MIMP is to prepare students with the technical and transdisciplinary competencies necessary for them to identify, learn and apply these along with the engineering practices to resolve global challenges, create new technologies and contribute to the prosperity of society. 

MIMP is aimed at recent Mineral Engineering and Geoscience graduates who have several years of work experience and want to rise in supervisory and management roles, but just don’t have the background yet.

“It’s difficult to get that education and training they need to expand their base without taking extended time off work. And while it’s common for people to leave a job to get an MBA, there are few programs which actually focus on mining activities.”  

Smith and Esmaeili realized there’s an unserved market and set the wheels in motion to develop a program that can be done while maintaining a full-time job.  

MIMP will offer courses focusing on the following themes:

  • Exploration, Studies, Resources & Reserves
  • Environment, Social, Governance & Indigenous
  • Economics & Finance  
  • Construction & Development  
  • Operations 

Each course is compromised of several modules and designed to be completed in approximately 12 weeks.  

“Being online, this program will be ideal for someone working in a smaller community. Or perhaps for someone who works fly-in-fly-out at a remote mine, where they can take these courses during their weeks off-site,” explained Smith.

And for Smith, MIMP is just another way he can help mentor the next generation of mineral engineers.  

“I’m very keen on the idea of sharing experience, which is what mentoring is. Particularly if you can give some very basic advice early on in someone’s career that might allow them to miss a lot of the potholes on the road.”  

Larry has held senior positions in mineral project evaluations with Barrick Gold, Vale, Inco, BHP-Billiton, and Rio Algom as well as SNC-Lavalin / Kilborn. He is the recipient of the CIM MES Robert Elver Award for Mineral Economics, is on the executive of the CIM Management and Economics Society (MES), is past Chair of the CIM Toronto Branch, a CIM Distinguished Lecturer, and a CIM Fellow. 

If you’d like to know more about the Mining Industry Management Program, subscribe to the mailing list.  

By David Goldberg