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Mining internships open UNLV students’ eyes to the promise beneath

UNLV science student Joseph Kolibar grew up in urban Las Vegas and never contemplated that mining could be a career option until he got a firsthand glimpse into the industry this summer.

The 22-year-old is one of four UNLV students doing 10-week paid summer internships with the Nevada Mining Association and Nevada Bureau of Land Management.

Kolibar, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Earth and environmental science, said last week that he’s enjoying the experience and it has spurred his interest in the mining industry.

“Prior to the internship, I didn’t really even know I could go into that pathway,” he said.

The program is in its second year. Interns spend five weeks working for a mining company and five weeks with the BLM.

For this year’s internship, “We really wanted to focus on Nevada students,” said Tyre Gray, president of the Nevada Mining Association.

About 20 students applied and there was an interview process to select the final four. Participating students this year are Kolibar, Solomon Feinstein, Nathan Carey and Austin Rodell.

Sites are Coeur Mining’s Rochester mine near Lovelock, Nevada Gold Mines-Phoenix near Battle Mountain, Kinross Round Mountain mine near Tonopah and SSR Mining’s Marigold mine near Winnemucca. Participating BLM offices are in Winnemucca, Battle Mountain and Tonopah.

The internship is designed to give science students a glimpse into the mining industry, Gray said. The hope is students from across the state, not just in rural areas, will become interested in mining, he said.

While the University of Nevada, Reno’s Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering has a mining engineering degree program, “In Las Vegas, we don’t see that same desire to be a mining engineer,” Gray said.

“Frankly, when you think of mining, you usually don’t think of Las Vegas,” he said.

But the mining supply chain is well connected to Las Vegas, Gray said, noting companies such as Barrick Gold Corp. and Cashman Equipment have offices in the valley.

And the industry directly accounts for about 1 percent of the jobs in the state, but is Nevada’s fifth-largest economic sector and contributes 7.4 percent of general fund revenues for the state, according to the mining association’s 2020 report.

Kolibar is stationed at Kinross Round Mountain, which is about an hour’s drive north of Tonopah and more than four hours from Las Vegas. On July 5, he’ll switch over to working at the Tonopah BLM office.

He said he learned of the internship through an email from UNLV.

“It just stood out among the other ones,” he said. “This one seemed really focused and generally interesting, I guess.”

Kolibar is living in Round Mountain in housing provided by the host mine.

“It’s different than living in Vegas,” he said, but noted there are perks such as being able to drive just 10 minutes to go hiking. And it’s a small community where people know each other, he added.

During his internship, Kolibar splits his time between working in an office and doing field work at the mining site, including collecting mineral and rock samples, checking flowmeters and doing water monitoring.

He said what has stood out so far is “how this operation is run at the mine.”

“There really are a lot of moving pieces and it just comes together to make a really efficient process,” Kolibar said. “For me, it’s pretty cool to see.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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