Mount Milligan Mine has small crews, good camaraderie and variety in work.
At least, that’s the experience of Lynn Sketchley, an equipment operator born and raised in Houston.
“It’s like family because it’s so small,” Sketchley said.
Mount Milligan, owned by Thompson Creek Metals Company, is a young, copper-gold mine, started in 2010, 92 kilometres north of Fort St. James.
Sketchley says she’s been running equipment there for a year and a half and started with 25 others when the mine hired a new ‘D’ crew.
“There were 25 of us that came on board at once, some went into mechanics, some ended up leaving, but we all kind of started together so we were kind of like a little family to begin with.”
Crews at Fort McMurray were much bigger, over 100 people rather than 30, and they lived in the city rather than in camp together.
“Here [at Milligan], we come in on the mine bus, go into camp, have supper together, go to bed, get up, have breakfast together and then we go to work together, so you’re kind of living together all the time,” she said.
Even upper management eats with the crews, and they’re very friendly, with an open-door policy for employees, Sketchley said.
She says the camaraderie at Mt. Milligan is her favourite part of working there.
“Our crew gets along really well, I really enjoy them… we’re always joking and laughing and sharing stuff,” she said.
One of two females on a crew of 30, Sketchley says people often ask her what it’s like being a female at the mine.
“The majority of the guys are really good… They’re like ‘if you can do the job, great.’
“I don’t feel like I’m treated any different because I’m a female.
“They’re really good with me,” she said.
Sketchley says she also really enjoys running equipment.
She operates big haul trucks, a grader, and a rubber-tired dozer, and switches between them every few days, based on the supervisor’s direction.
“Usually you’ll get on a piece of equipment for a couple days at a time. Some supervisors like to put you on a piece of equipment and leave you there for the whole seven days…but the supervisor we have now likes to change people around so they’re not getting bored or they’re not stuck on that same piece of equipment if they don’t like it.
“So it’s nice,” she said.
Sketchley says she works 12-hour shifts, seven days in and seven out, and lives in Houston.
“This is my home and I know a lot of people here. It’s nice to come back here,” she said.
When she goes on shift, she drives to Fort St. James and catches a bus to the mine, which takes about an hour and half to reach camp.
Her typical work day is pretty well eat, sleep and work, she said.
The hours are long, but Sketchley says she likes working there.
The camp consists of trailers, split into separate and fairly small rooms, but the mine is working to replace that camp with a new lodge, started in mid-2013 and scheduled to be done in the second half of 2014.
A Mt. Milligan news release states that the rooms will be 221 square feet, and will have a bathroom and shower, independent heating and cooling system, memory foam style bed, TV and window with black out shades
They will share the room with one other person of the opposite shift, and will have lockers to store their things when they’re gone on shift.
Asked what her plans are fir the future, Sketchley says she hopes to stay at Mt. Milligan.
“Right now, as far as I’m concerned, I’m going to be staying there until I retire. I like it there,” she said.