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B.C. threatens $1-million fine, prison time for entering newly discovered cave

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VANCOUVER — A newly discovered cave and the surrounding area in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Provincial Park has been closed off to the public, with threats of fines up to $1 million for those who don’t stay away, says an order from BC Parks.

The order issued this week says anyone who enters the surrounding area or the cave can be fined and face imprisonment for up to a year.

A person can be charged up to $1-million a day for every day that they break the order, it says.

“Until risks to public safety have been assessed and engagement with First Nations has been concluded, the newly discovered cave and surrounding area is closed to public access as per the director’s order,” it says.

Geologist Catherine Hickson, who first went to the cave in September, welcomed the order.

“I think it’s prudent on the part of (BC) Parks to do that,” she said. “It is a very dangerous and treacherous area and to reiterate, we went in with a permit.”

It’s very unlikely that someone would try to get into the cave or the area around it, Hickson said.

“But you know there’s a lot of crazies in this world. I wouldn’t put it past somebody to try and get into the area,” she added.

The entrance pit to the cave is about 100 metres long and 60 metres wide, and while its depth is hard to measure because of the mist from a waterfall, initial examinations show it is at least 135 metres deep.

The cave was initially spotted in March by a helicopter crew with the Ministry of Environment that was conducting a caribou census in the northeastern part of the park.

Hickson said the cave is a one-hour helicopter flight from Clearwater, 480 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

In the winter, the cave can be accessed by skiing about 100 kilometres from the entrance to the park, while during the summer it would require a 45-kilometre boat trip and another 15-kilometre walk.

“It’s not an easy cave to get to,” she said.

The cave is a vertical climb down with lots of water and ice, she said.

“People may try to enter the cave and that is risky unless you are well trained and well equipped,” Hickson said. “This isn’t a climb you can do on a whim.”

If someone gets into trouble, another person would have to risk their life to help them, she said.

The cave is the largest known of its type, a variety of “striped karst,” which is marble interspersed with other types of ancient ocean rock.

Those who first spotted the cave from the helicopter named it Sarlacc’s Pit because of its similarity to the lair of Sarlacc, a creature from “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.”

Caves support a very unique ecosystem because they are dark so the flora and fauna living in such areas are acclimatized to those conditions, Hickson said and that is one of the other reasons that Parks BC is trying to protect the site.

“It’s to help with safety of the people and the cave.”

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

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