Scouting the future

By |  October 7, 2015

Scouting and mining always seem to find their way into Frank McAllister’s life. McAllister, chairman of the board for the National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum, says his father was a scoutmaster when he was a kid. He recalls sitting at a campfire with his father and his Boy Scout troop when he was 4 years old.

“I concluded there that Scouting was fun,” he says. “That’s when I decided I would be a Scout. And I stayed involved [with Boy Scouts] my whole life.”

Mining also became a part of McAllister’s life when, halfway through college, he was offered a job at a mining controller’s office. Over the years, he worked his way up in the mining industry until he became CEO of Stillwater Mining Co. in Billings, Mont.

Although McAllister retired from the mining industry in 2013, his interests in mining and Scouting have never waned. The past few years, he was one of several people who helped persuade Boy Scouts of America to release the Mining in Society merit badge for Boy Scouts.

“I’ve been in mining my whole life, and I’ve been a Boy Scout my whole life,” McAllister says. “It wasn’t enough for just my boys to understand [mining], but also for youth in general. I want them to know [mining] is not about pillaging mountaintops. Rather, it’s about creating stuff you need.”

Boy Scouts of America officially released the Mining in Society merit badge for all Boy Scouts in February 2014 at the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) conference in Salt Lake City. McAllister says 49 boys earned the badge the day it launched by attending several courses and meeting with professional miners at the event. To date, SME reports more than 3,500 Scouts have received Mining in Society merit badges.

Quarry operator roles

While boys do not need to visit a quarry or mine to earn the Mining in Society merit badge, McAllister says it is more fun for them to go on a quarry or mine tour. He says quarries and mines should invite local Scouting troops to their facilities to earn these badges.

“Scouts are everywhere in the nation, and quarries are everywhere in the nation,” he says. “There are opportunities for quarries to reach out to Boy Scouts to share about the mining industry.”

Some quarries around the United States have already taken advantage of the Mining in Society merit badge as another way to educate the community on the aggregates industry. Vulcan Materials Co.’s Carroll Canyon Quarry in San Diego has educated Boy Scouts for a few years.

Atisthan Roach, Vulcan’s manager of public affairs and corporate communications, says the Carroll Canyon Quarry has hosted a GeoDay for hundreds of Boy Scouts since 2009 to help them earn a Geology merit badge. The name of Vulcan’s event was changed to Mining and Geology Day last year when Boy Scouts of America introduced the Mining in Society merit badge. Roach says Boy Scouts who attend the event now can earn two merit badges.

At the event, Vulcan sets up educational stations for the Boy Scouts where they learn about rocks, how to interpret geologic maps, conduct experiments on erosion and learn the names of heavy equipment. Roach adds that Scouts also get to ride on trolleys around the Carroll Canyon facility to view the entire quarry.

“It’s a fun and safe way to shuttle the Scouts around the quarry to observe geology and equipment,” she says. “Vulcan has a geologist or mining engineer narrate the trolley tour and answer questions for the kids and the adults with them.”

Several other aggregate producers took advantage of the Mining in Society merit badge last year. Braen Stone in Haledon, N.J., certified three of its employees to be merit badge counselors for both the Mining in Society and Geology merit badges last fall.

Jessica Panicucci, Braen Stone’s marketing coordinator, says the company invited groups of two to three Boy Scouts to visit the quarry at a time to work on either of the merit badges with its staff.

“We talk about blasting and the safety measures for that,” she says. “We also show them the asphalt plant we have on site. And, depending on time, we take the kids to meet someone from the quarry who talks about what it’s like to work there and how they got the job.”

The Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association (IMAA) has also been encouraging member companies across the state to develop counselors for either of these merit badges. Trent Carney, area production manager with Rogers Group Inc. in Bloomington, Ind., was immediately interested in hosting Boy Scout merit badge sessions at his quarries last year because he is both an assistant scoutmaster and quarry employee.

To date, Carney has helped about 50 Boy Scouts earn the Mining in Society merit badge. He says quarry workers enjoy seeing the Scouts come to the facility.

“Most people in the industry are pretty passionate about sharing education on the industry with the community,” he says. “And when they get to share it with youth, it’s a great joy.”

Educating future generations

If it can’t be grown, it has to be mined.

That is the motto Mining in Society merit badge developers hope to convey to Boy Scouts trying to earn the badge. McAllister never hesitates to educate boys in his troops on the importance of mining.

“They need to understand mining is creating stuff you need,” he says. “We have a population that’s dependent on stuff – iPhones, bikes, cars. That requires elements out of the ground. If [today’s kids] don’t understand that, we, in mining, have a long campaign to make sure society understands they are benefactors of the mining industry.”

McAllister adds that the mining industry is aging with many Baby Boomers retiring. He says there aren’t enough replacements to take those jobs. He hopes the Boy Scouts’ Mining in Society merit badge helps to educate kids on different mining industry jobs they could someday take.

“Unless boys know about the opportunities in mining, they won’t go after it,” McAllister says. “Here’s a small opportunity for us to give [Boy Scouts] a basic understanding of opportunities in the industry.”

One of the requirements of the merit badge is listing aggregates-related careers. Carney says he believes this is beneficial for older Boy Scouts who are considering college and careers. He notices older Scouts perk up at this part of the merit badge training. Carney says at least a half dozen Scouts he has walked through the Mining in Society merit badge expressed an interest in pursuing an aggregates-related job someday.

“[Older Scouts] seem to key in on this,” he says. “They realize at some of these events that there are jobs out there in different salary ranges at quarries, which piques their interest.”

Become a merit badge counselor

Braen Stone, Rogers Group and Vulcan Materials encourage Boy Scouts to visit their quarries and meet with their employees. Each of these companies went through youth training and paperwork to host Boy Scouts at their sites.

Trent Carney, area production manager for Rogers Group in Bloomington, Ind., shares some tips on how a quarry can become certified to help local Boy Scouts earn the Mining in Society or Geology merit badges:

1. Contact the local Boy Scout council. Get to know your area’s local Boy Scouts council and explain your interest in becoming a merit badge counselor for the Mining in Society or Geology merit badge.

2. Attend merit badge counselor training. Anyone who wants to be a Merit Badge counselor needs to go through general youth training webinars or sessions on how to work with kids in a classroom setting. Your local Boy Scouts council should give you details on where to go and how to complete this.

3. Create a plan, team with associations. Encourage the regional aggregates association or other quarries near you to get involved with this. As a team, come up with a streamlined plan on what information should be shared with Boy Scouts who want to receive a merit badge at the quarry. Create a generic PowerPoint or video presentation as an association to streamline what the Scouts learn.

4. Obtain badges for Scouts. Have badges ready to hand out to Scouts who visit the quarry to earn the badge.

Take note

Some quarries around the United States have already taken full advantage of the Mining in Society merit badge as another way to educate the community on the aggregates industry.

About the Author:

Megan Smalley is the associate editor of Pit & Quarry. Contact her at or 216-363-7930.

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