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Category Archives: Cameco

Storytellers #29 and #30 – using local contractors


The general trend in the mining industry is to increase the use of contractors in order to be more flexible, adaptable and cost-effective. Whether this is achieved can be debated, but the trend is clear and although the markets for iron ore (the Kiruna case) and uranium (the McArthur River/Key Lake case) are different, they are both nevertheless highly influenced by ‘boom and bust’, ‘feast and famine’. Walking the fine […]

Storyteller #28 – mining and community


Next storyteller is a man from Saskatchewan, Canada, living in a small town up north called La Ronge. He works at MCA. When reflecting over the challenges for northern communities where a large portion work for the mining industry, he praises Cameco, the company, for its efforts, but also emphasises the many challenges still to deal with. This quote about La Ronge comes to mind as we’re daily seeing pictures […]

Storyteller #18 – from Canada, on having two families


Next storyteller is a woman, an aboriginal, working at the mill at Key Lake. She talks about the strong social bonds created at work and therefore about having two families, one at home and one at work: Actually, if you talk with anyone here who has been long term they’re going to tell you that ‘this is my family’. We live with them, we work with them over the years. […]

Storyteller #17 – from Canada, life on- and off-site


Next storyteller from Canada, a woman, working above ground, 7/7, here on the social life on- and off-site, and on why she couldn’t see herself returning to a normal 9-5 job: Well here is very social, you are always around people, you are always interacting with people. […] At home it’s a little bit more quiet. You usually just see you family, your immediate family and then go back to work […]

Storyteller #16 – from Canada, on the relation between company and community


Our next storyteller is an aboriginal man, working as a manager at the mine and as a representative of his local community in the north. Mining companies, including their contractors, operating in the north have to hire Residents of Saskatchewan North (RSN) as labor (see previous blogposts on this, just search for the category “Canada” or “Aboriginals”). Below is an extract from our conversation about this: So in Canada you have that […]

Storyteller #15 – from Canada, about social life on-site


Time to introduce some storytellers from the McArthur River uranium mine in Saskatchewan, Canada. This person, a man, a white-collar with Cameco, working 7/7 (seven days on-site, seven days off-site), talks about the social life on-site: The social life here compared to the one back home? Here it’s a… there is more visiting, like I communicate a lot more with people up here. At home I sit and recluse, just […]

Aboriginals and the labour process (part 4)


Two short questions are still left hanging from my visit to MCA in Saskatchewan and from reading the CVMPP-reports: What about the contractors? In the reports, contractors are not really dealt with, but they still represent a significant part of the labour process. Just as on site, they had their rooms in a building beside the Cameco employees, but they shared the other facilities (restaurant, wellness facilities etc.). Interestingly, most […]

Goffman and the Wolfpack


“How long would it take for me to know what’s really going on here?”, I asked. “About three to four months”, the worker answered. I looked at my watch. Twenty hours to go before my flight back to Saskatoon. It takes time to get to know the social codes of a wolfpack. Arriving, staying at and leaving the McArthur River mine site, I kept thinking of the sociological opportunity to study […]

On Cozying Up to Corporations


Below you’ll find a post from our guestblogger Emily Eaton, Associate Professor at the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Regina, Canada: “I read with interest the January blog post “Empathizing with the subjects of study” and was reminded of a conversation I had with Johan when he visited the University of Regina. At that time we discussed Organizing Rocks’ relationship to Cameco Corporation, the owner of the uranium mine and mill […]

Empathizing with the subjects of study


We’re reading the book “Mining capitalism: the relationship between corporations and their critics” by Stuart Kirsch (2014, University of California Press). It’s an impressive study, based on more than two decades of ethnographic research related to particularly one indigenous community and its struggle with the OK Tedi mine on Papua New Guinea. We’ll have reasons to come back to this book further on, but one thing strikes us early on. […]

Aboriginals and the labour process (part 3)


One issue related to the labour process at MCA and to life in northern Saskatchewan that has received a lot of attention is health and well-being. In a CVMPP report from December 2014, the effects of the uranium industry’s health and wellness programs on direct employees of AREVA and Cameco are studied (predominantly based on surveys; gaining generalizability but losing context). Reading the report with my visit to MCA as […]

Aboriginals and the labour process (part 2)


The way the labour process at MCA is organized spills right into the homes and the communities. The impact seems especially strong in northern, aboriginal communities. The report by the CVMPP from 2006 explicitly deals with the theme “How FIFO [fly-in/fly-out] impact the workers’ family or community”. It says that: “Given that the effects of the rotation system had a limited impact on communities, there were very few recommendations as to […]

Visiting the Key Lake mill


Key Lake is where the uranium from MCA is processed, turned into “yellow cake” (which in the end is black), and then exported. The mill is about 80 km from the mine, about an hour drive on roads controlled by Cameco, and on which the slurry trucks go back and forth. Aboriginals entitled to be on the land are also allowed on the roads. I ride with Ryan and although the landscape […]

Aboriginals and the labour process (part 1)


The presence (past and present) of indigenous people in northern Saskatchewan significantly influences the labour process of MCA. It’s quite a contrast to Kiruna where the Sami people have a more peripheral, even marginalized position. People established in northern Saskatchewan are sometimes referred to as Residents of Saskatchewan’s North (RSN). There are about 37000 RSN and more than “85% of the population in northern Saskatchewan identify themselves as Aboriginal [Cree, Métis, […]