Hosted by Cameco Corporation, Johan spent four days in November at the McArthur River mine site. Below, a short text about his first impressions.
At noon I arrive at Westwind Aviation hangar 3A in Saskatoon. It’s a good day. The air is high, not too cold. The bag is checked and together with three other workers, I board the plane. After a short stop in Prince Albert (“there is no paradise without PA”) to pick up a group of workers, we land at McArthur River (MCA), two hours after leaving Saskatoon.
Everybody on site are FIFOs (fly-in/fly-out). I count to 14 different pick-up spots, all in Saskatchewan (although Flin Flon is a bordertown to Manitoba), all but two in small communities in northern Saskatchewan.
My host, Ryan from HR, picks me and another person up by car. The others go by bus. The camp, where all stay, is less than five minutes away, towards the mine. From camp to the mine and the administration building is a 15 minutes walk, but buses run when shifts start and end, as well as for lunch. It is advised not to walk alone, particularly as a wolfpack has been seen nearby. Wintertime, particularly in January and February, also provides a reason not to walk. It is not unusual with temperatures well below 40 degrees. Add wind to this and it is better to stay inside or use the vehicles.
I check in at the McArthur River Lodge (well, we all do), managed by Athabasca Catering, a company owned by five first nation (aboriginal) partners. My room has a large bed, a TV and two closets. Toilet and shower are found in the corridor. Some rooms have their own bathrooms or is shared with one other room. All Camecopeople stay at the main building, whereas the contractors stay in buildings just outside the main one. Everybody shares all the other facilities in the main building, however. The restaurant, the gym, the indoor arena, the lounge etc. In a building close to the main one, there is a golf simulator and a room to practice archery (used to be a curling hall).
MCA is a dry facility. You cannot even possess alcohol. Want to make a noise? Between 5 and 9 in the morning and 5 and 11 in the evening are your windows of opportunity. Other times, schhhhh. Yes, there is wi-fi, although a slow one. The cafeteria/restaurant is always open and you can help yourself to whatever you need, whenever you need it. Hot meals are served for lunch and dinner.
Driving from the airport to camp and then to the admin building, my impression is that at MCA, everything is close. The uranium mine site is much more compact compared the Kiruna mine. Less rocks, less people, less movement, less noise. In lack of a better way of describing it, I felt like: “Is this it?”.
Arriving at the admin building, Ryan takes me through the “Safety first” rules and asks me about the project. Time flies and we go back to camp for dinner. I meet some of the other staff, have a meal, check out the lounge (icehockey game on the big TV, some watch, others just socialize), then off to bed. First day out of four starts softly. Next day takes me underground.