March 25, 2021

Haskayne Master of Management students work on Canada’s recovery

Team in finals for Canada Comeback Challenge with project for the mining sector
Left to right: Ryynn Rathwell, Natasha Werbicki and Colleen Jackson, Mmgmt students and finalists
From left: Ryynn Rathwell, Natasha Werbicki and Colleen Jackson, MMgmt students and finalists. Riley Brant, University of Calgary

One month into their Master of Management (MMgmt) program at Haskayne School of Business, three students took on the task to help solve a big challenge facing Canadian business: How to portray mining as a part of the green economy? Seven months later, they have found themselves in the top 10 finalists for the Canada Comeback Challenge and have a business idea to address this question.

“It's interesting because when we first were looking at this — Colleen and I come from an environmental science background — we're educated on more of the negative perceptions of the mining industry,” says Natasha Werbicki. “So this project encouraged us to do the research and realize that mines are putting in the effort, they are making changes.”

Ryynn Rathwell, the third team member, has a Bachelor of Science in biology. All three saw the MMgmt as a way to gain business skills to ladder on top of their specialized degrees. Combined, they have powerful expertise in science and business to bring to this case competition.

Tackling the challenge

For the Canada Comeback Challenge, real-world problems were supplied by not-for-profits and public and private associations across Canada such as the Mining Industry Human Resources Council that created the prompt the Haskayne School of Business team tackled.

The Business + Higher Education Roundtable (BHER) created the national online competition to replace the work placement opportunities lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, creating up to 10,000 work-integrated learning experiences. As students develop their pitches, they are connected to professionals to help mentor their progress. The initiative was funded by the federal government as a part of a support package for post-secondary students.

“It's exciting to know that we have the potential to make a difference in the mining industry,” says Rathwell. “This competition has really complemented the degree by creating a space where we can practically apply learned concepts.”

A solution based on transparency

The team's key recommendation is to increase transparency within the mining industry. In doing their research, they found it was not easy to find the data about which mines are emitting and which contaminants may be present. Although companies may report some of this data, it is often aggregated across multiple mines, so it is hard for stakeholders in a particular jurisdiction to be fully informed.

“The public's perception of mining has not evolved at the same rate that the miners have evolved their practices,” says Rathwell. “Whether these changes have been legislative or initiated by the mining companies themselves, there is so much change happening in this space. New technologies and ideas are being generated all the time to help miners become more efficient and more sustainable.”

The team suggested the Mining Network Platform to increase transparency for the industry. It would be a website, populated with audited data from governments and the mining companies.

The logo for the proposed venture.

The logo for the proposed venture.

“They can see pollution and emission data through this one easy-to-use website and they can compare it to past trends and they can compare it to past and current industry trends,” says Jackson. “So it's a tool that people can use.”

Ultimately, the team is aiming to provide accessible data so that all stakeholders can make more informed decisions and opinions based on up-to-date facts rather than non-vetted sources.

Public voting for finalists open March 22

Getting to the top 10 was not an easy task. Students across Canada worked through elimination rounds from January to the beginning of March, with additional resources being provided to the teams in each successive round.

The top 10 finalists were announced on March 22 and public voting is open to select the winning teams.

In comparison to many other case competitions, the Canada Comeback Challenge offered a lot more flexibility, which allowed the team to really activate their creativity. The team found being a part of the fast-paced MMgmt program was a benefit.

“If you had asked me, seven months ago, if I would have an almost fully fledged business, I would have probably told you that you are crazy,” says Jackson. “It's cool to look at what we've done and see how far we have come and how much we've accomplished.”

UPDATE: On March 31, 2021 the team placed first in Canada Comeback Challenge.