Documentary Movie Moviemaking Researcher Union

Black snow – film in research

Early on in our project, we decided to ask miners if they could tell about their relation to work, mine and community in front of a camera as well. We produced a couple of interviews on our blog, but once we were rejected by top management, the idea of filming interviews became more sensitive. Eventually, we abandoned this part of the project, although we did produce interviews with academics as well as a couple of simple music videos later on (click here to see all our videos). So, the research-as-film idea did not vanish, although we felt that our initial idea of producing a lengthy documentary towards the end of our project wasn’t pursued. Other scholars go all the way, though. One film that we were recommended is the research documentary called Black Snow about a mining disaster in the UK. It is written and directed by management professor, Stephen Linstead. Watch it! On YouTube, the film is described like this:

Winner of the Best Research, Black Snow looks at the explosion at the Oaks Colliery in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, which despite being the world’s worst industrial loss of life in the 19th century, was a tragedy that remained relatively unremembered until 2015, when a group of ex-miners, trade unionists, and local historians attempted to raise money to erect a memorial for its 150th anniversary. The film tells three interlocking stories: the story of a historical community devastated by the disaster, struggling to survive; the story of a contemporary community, decimated by the loss of industry, rediscovering itself in the struggle to remember; and the story of a sculptor, struggling to make one last masterpiece. It features an original score by BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominee Jed Grimes and Mercury Music Prize winner Robin File.

Article Bradon LKAB Union

Neoliberal trajectories in mining

In a sister-project to Organizing rocks, funded by Handelsbanken’s research council, we take a historical approach to mining. One part of the project includes a comparison between the iron ore regions in Malmfälten (with the mines in Kiruna, Malmberget and Svappavaara) and in the Pilbara, western Australia. The Pilbara comparison is based on a collaboration with Professor Bradon Ellem at the University of Sydney. Recently a comparative paper from the project was published in the European Journal of Industrial Relations with the title “Neoliberal trajectories in mining: Comparing Malmfälten and the Pilbara”. It gives our Organizing rocks project more of a context and historical grounding. Although we’re completely biased here, it is a nice read! Click here to access the paper on the journal’s homepage (and if you don’t have open access, e-mail Johan at Here’s the abstract:

We compare the iron ore sectors and mining regions of Malmfälten in Sweden and the Pilbara in Australia. Both are physically isolated and the product is economically vital, but we find differences in industrial relations which accord with what would be expected in coordinated and liberal market economies. A closer examination, attentive to history and geography and in which changes in institutional form and function are highlighted, reveals, however, that these differences are more apparent than real, and that there is a common neoliberal trajectory. This analysis also suggests that changes in these sites at times drive transformations in national industrial relations.

Kiruna LKAB Luleå Storyteller Union Worker

Storyteller #35 – the union and the Summerbirds

Every Summer, LKAB hires several hundreds of so-called “Summerbirds”; people – often young persons who have a break from their studies – that come in to work for a couple of months when ordinary staff are on vacation. As the trend of temporary workers is on the rise in general (although LKAB today work towards decreasing the use of ‘foreign services’), it is interesting to also turn the attention to the response from the unions on this issue. Talking to a Summerbird about this:

When I recently started working at SSAB [the steel plant in Luleå, as Summerbird], than we had a lecture. A person from the union came and talked [to us]. But we never had that at LKAB. Never. Not heard anything about it, not even mentioned to me…

Kiruna Storyteller Supplier Union

Storyteller #33 – work vs community?

Next storyteller is one of the ombudsmen inside the gates, reflecting on the recurrent theme of people doing work in the Kiruna mine but living (and paying taxes) elsewhere:

It would be better if they move up, then there might have been more lively here [as in more pulse in the local community]. And there would also be more tax money in this town. This depletes… But if you get an assignment to work in Kiruna for four years, why bring the family here if you perhaps already is a worker who moves around? Those who were here and built our new main level [at 1365 meters below ground] are such people.

Reading a report about the mining industry from 2015, written by the central organisation of the union IF Metall (with sections in Malmberget, Svappavaara and Kiruna), it is stated that:

Overall, the mining industry has had a larger share of entrepreneurs compared to many other industries. In 2013 the companies reported that entrepreneurs represented about 45 percent of the working time. Maintenance and repair as well as drilling and loading are often contracted out. (page 42; our translation) 

Kiruna Storyteller Union

Storyteller #31 – the role of the union

Next storyteller is one of the local ombudsmen for one of the unions. Our conversation is about how he keeps in contact with the members and what they are interested in. Below, he talks about how members tend to enrol the union in a rather short-sighted way:

The members are active when there is a wage movement. Or when jobs are threatened. Then they come. […] Very seldom do they come and say ‘what if we did it like this’, ‘what if we should start working with this instead’, you know, more forward-looking ideas. It just doesn’t work. Take an issue like their pensions. If I go and talk about pensions and the future, talking to a 25-years old, well, first, he hasn’t even heard of co-workers retiring. It’s so far away. They’re not interested in these issues. Those who are interested are those about to retire, but for them it is too late.

Kiruna LKAB Politician Storyteller Union Worker

Storyteller #24 – the work rotation vs. the local community

Last year we met a local politician in Kiruna. One theme in our conversation was how different work rotation schedules related to the local community, since workers who work in Kiruna but don’t live in Kiruna also don’t pay taxes in the municipality. The politician said:

When we discussed about there being a lot of people commuting [from outside the municipality to work in the mine], they have these work rotations schedules where they work seven days and are free seven days. There has been a discussion about whether or not IF Metall [the workers’ union] perhaps should make LK[AB] stop this. But, even those who live in Kiruna want these schedules. It’s very much a matter of… Before they [many commuters] went home to Tornedalen… They really want this. Work seven days and then spend seven days in their cabins. But the union doesn’t dare to push the issue since it works against their members.

Iron Kiruna LKAB Management Storyteller Union Worker

Storyteller #14 – on unions and strikes

Storyteller #14 is a man working above ground for over twenty years at LKAB in Kiruna. Below is an extract from our conversation where we talk about the worker collective and the role of the union.

– That time, around 1969/70 (the time of the big strike, spontaneously started by a worker in Svappavaara, not a strike organised by the union), when they began getting power over the workers, and when the union began being damn hollowed…

– That they are too weak?

– I think they are too weak.

– You mean that the workers will find other ways, just as they did in 69, when disappointed with…

– Today, I think the workers are rather tethered with rather demanding amortisations (a house or an apartment, a ski-doo etc.). They won’t strike. I don’t think so.

– They abide to…?

– You abide, I mean considering the debt burden they have, you see? Back then, you didn’t have a debt burden. It was more about surviving the day and putting food on the table. But today, you’ve lived so damn good for so many years. Especially if we think about those born in the 1990s who have now started to work for the company. They come directly from school, all of a sudden they have monthly salary of 30.000 (SEK). Hello?!

– Plus supplements?

– Plus supplements, you understand, it’s easy to get speed-blinded. And if you’re speed-blinded you accumulate debts. These guys who are, this is the perfect thing for the company, I mean those who remain after this “clean sweep” (lay-offs), the others have to sell the whole shebang, to someone, if there are someone who wants to buy.

– Yes, it’s a lot now. I mean, we can feel that, what you talked about previously, during 1969, then there were these old, time-study men who came down, too close and then a reaction. This wouldn’t happen now, not happen now.

– I’ve been part of the workers’ collective and been through at least three strikes, I think. 99 we had a strike, 2000 ah, when was it? 2002 or something like that, and then sometime around 2007. The thing is that in the works (above ground), we’ve never been prone to strike, but…

– Why?

– I don’t know why. We’ve been quite satisfied with the situation and we’ve had it quite good here. We’ve worked our shifts, had our weeks off. But under ground, in some way, it has become, I don’t know really what it’s all about. The strikes have always started under ground. If they start them under ground and then there is no ore coming up to the works and the works stand still, it’s not until then that management start reacting: “Ah, there is no pellets. What the hell!” And who do they come to then? Well, not to the source, but to the last step in the production process: “Why do you stand still?” Well, then you simply say: “We have no ore.” But we’ve been damn good at showing solidarity up here in the works. We’ve always taken their (the strikers under ground) side. I don’t always even know why they strike.

Book Nature Researcher Review Union Worker

Undermining gender

Johan has read “Mining coal and undermining gender: rhythms of work and family in the American west” by Jessica Smith Rolston (Rutgers University Press, 2014). Here are some of his reflections:

At the outset of our project we knew that gender would play an important role, particularly given the history and context of the Kiruna mine (also for the Saskatchewan-case). There’s almost a mythology around the miner, a man of few words, with strong hands and a will to take risks in order to get the job done. For sure, many other mining areas share a similar myth. On occasions, we’ve also experienced stories and instances in Kiruna where this myth is reproduced, but the most common example is some sort of ‘light’ version of it, mixed up with more modern discourses on gender, equality and work environment. A lot has also happened since ‘men of high statue’ “founded” the mine in the late 1890s, but there is still a long way to go, as shown by Eira Andersson in her dissertation “Malmens manliga mysterium” (in Swedish, title translated: “The ore’s male mystery”, from 2012; see also the video-interview on gender and mining with professor Lena Abrahamsson on this blog from February 9, this year).

Reading Smith Rolston’s book gave a new dimension to gender and mining. Her in-depth ethnographic study of the coal mines in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin (the largest coal producer in the US) gives a contextual feel for, and a nuanced, almost positive, perspective on how gender is done and undone in the mines. I won’t attempt to cover the entire book here (visit her work-page to access references to her work and reviews of the book), but to share some of the thoughts, hopefully giving you reasons to pick up your own copy of the book!

The context, oh the context, it cannot be emphasised enough: it’s always important to ground studies in context. This book makes an excellent case of this. Gender is performed differently in this particular context (as compared for instance with the Appalachian mines, a recurrent comparative case in the book; in Sweden, we often direct our comparisons to Brazilian mines and, not surprisingly, we look quite good). Between 20-25% of those working in the Wyoming mines are women (this is higher than in any Swedish mine!) and this has been the case since the start of the mines in the late 1970s, partly explained by the region’s agrarian history and cultural context where both men, women and youth worked in the fields (making the person asking the question ‘why couldn’t a woman be a miner?’ look rather stupid – of course they can!). Several matters addressed throughout the book are recognisable in our studies, albeit with some contextual differences: great examples on how bodies matter in a gendered labour process (urinating, menstruation etc.), the rotation schedule and the context of work matter for the family-strong bonds created at work and the juggling act between work and home, being a non-unionised site matter for the relation between workers and workers-managers, enabling well-paid but low education jobs (“blue-collar aristocracy”) matters for the providing of family and for creating the opportunities for the kids to attend university (and thereby avoid ending up in the mines), and much more. I also like the emphasis in the book on how the miners talk to each other, how it matters in order to understand gender performances (the jargong and particularly the humor). One thing I missed was a more elaborative discussion on how career and recruitment were played out in practice, how gender was performed related to these issues.

Focusing on the method, the author has close ties to the worksites, the homes and the people, and, hence, to the phenomenon she is researching. It’s an inspiring ‘native ethnography’, making me think of the four days and three nights I spent at the McArthur River uranium mine in Saskatchewan. I left with the feeling of only scratching the surface of ‘what’s going here’, writing the lyrics for our song “Wolfpack” (on our Production album) on my trip back home. Reading Smith Rolston shows the benefits (as well as some of the challenges) from truly engaging with the field, even when it includes family.

Her father works in the mines she’s studying and she has also worked their during Summer, later spending a lot of time on site as a researcher. Epistemologically, the way she approaches the phenomenon is very interesting, enrolling all senses, on site, in order to understand gender performances. The empirical material is unique, giving me a feeling throughout the book of getting to know the people, their work-ethic, work culture, and how they balance work and family with a tough rotation schedule. This approach also create strong bonds with several of the persons studied. The author mentions that this creates a responsibility of not jeopardising their trust by painting outsiders (such as me) “negative portrayals” of the miners (which seems to be a common type of portrayal in the US according to the author; I think of a fiction book I read last year where this is the case, on Appalachian coal mining, “Grey mountain”, by John Grisham). This is an issue of representation, of how to communicate findings from the study that are scientifically interesting and relevant, while not necessarily being in agreement with, or seen as positive by, those studied. This balancing act goes on throughout the book and although the author is very transparent about it, I’d sometimes liked to have seen a more front-loaded treatment of issues-with-friction.

A feeling that occasionally came back throughout my reading was that although particular performances of “gender neutrality” could be argued, some of these nevertheless took place on an already gendered stage (there’s no “ungendered” space). In lack of better words, this meta-level of analysis could have played a more important role in some sections. I also lacked a more thorough treatment of the wider context, missing a deeper analyses beyond the local context, on the overall market context for the coal mining and how this is perceived by the miners. This also goes for the growing importance of sustainability issues, particularly the climate change debate and the role of coal in the work towards sustainability. It’s understandable that locals focus on the local context and natural environment, and that they take good care of it, loving their outdoors, but I imagine that they also have thought about, for example, climate change related to their work and off-work life. That is, just as much as I enjoyed reading about how the miners reflected on how people outside the area didn’t understand the importance of the coal mines for the supply of electricity in the US (a miner is quoted: “Half of every lightbulb in the U.S. is lit by coal… but a lot of people can’t think behind the wall”, p 31), I miss how they in turn reflected on how their idea of how work and place matter when focusing on how mining coal also risk undermining other places and people (past and future).

Kiruna LKAB Management Union Worker

Different stories about the collective

Early on in the project we talked to workers and managers that had worked at the Kiruna mine for a long time. Among the topics discussed was whether or not there is a worker collective today; in a deeper sense than in terms of union membership. A collective who can collectively agree that they have had enough and from that act in unison.

At the time the story we heard (thus interpreted) was a story that sung along the chords of individualism; young people today are more individualistic, want to earn good money and go do fun things in their leisure time. They want pleasure, which does not rule out that they can work hard, it means that they have individual life expectations on and off work.

Recently, however, we’ve come across another tune. The experienced workers we’ve met recently counter this view, arguing that if pressed, there is still a very strong collective, comparable to the generation of 1969 (the famous Kiruna strike). One reason for this shift in tune and song might stem from the fact that the present time is precarious. The iron ore market are down, focus is on cost reductions (from expansion to defense), efficiency seeking re-organization, lay-offs etc. This implies increasing pressure on workers and what we may hear is actually the first signs of that enough is enough.

Aboriginals Kiruna LKAB Union

Meeting Sami people

What is so obvious in the labor process in the uranium mine in Saskatchewan – the integration of indigenous people – is less so in the Kiruna case. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Sami people in and around Kiruna aren’t drawn into and affected by the labour process in the Kiruna mine. We think of the picture heading this post, the LKAB moose and the reindeer, and the relation in-between.

An empirical blindspot in our Swedish case study so far is that we haven’t approached representatives of the Sami people. It’s something that we planned, and initially has started, but not yet really executed. One reason for this is that they are not explicitly drawn into the labor process by LKAB or the unions (they’re there, but not addressed). One reason for this implicitness is that the Sami people don’t have to be addressed as a people with rights to their land by LKAB or any other mining company as these rights do not exist. The Sami people stand in a very weak power position. Times might be a changing, however, given the Girjas’ case and the Kallak case (not cases tied to the Kiruna mine).

During the last weeks, we’ve started a movement from the outside-in, in which we’ve had the chance and privilege to speak to two leading Sami representatives. It’s rather obvious, we should have done this earlier. Why? It provides a very different perspective on the mine, work, power, nature, consumption, society etc. From our reading of, for example, post colonial theory and anthropology and from our initial encounters with Sami people indicate that the Swedish context does not stand out in terms of indigenous people – there are different ontologies about development, colonial history and the relation between humans and nature, and with regards to financial and legal power asymmetries. The two last aspects – financial and legal power asymmetries – are rather surprising, however. We’ve read case studies about mining in so-called failed states and developing countries, and we have our own comparative study in a very comparable society, Canada. What strikes us is that the legal rights for indigenous people in many cases are much stronger than in Sweden (and there are often contractual arrangements providing economic compensation to them), rights that also provide a platform from which a resistance can be built (but it is also a source for internal conflict among indigenous people). A bit paradoxical perhaps, countries with weak institutions also seem to provide a context in which resistance from indigenous people can grow much more explicit.

In Sweden, indigenous people live with strong state institutions, weak legal rights and financial shortages. We’re not saying that the Sami people are facing worse conditions than indigenous people in failed states and developing countries, not at all; we merely claim that the Sami people, embedded as they are in a highly secular, modern and rich country face real obstacles when trying to claim what they (and many others) see as their rights.

But, conceptual thinking and academic reasoning are not enough; it might be a good start, but it remains for us to meet more Sami people drawn into the Kiruna mine, and to listen, to try to better understand.


Kiruna Supplier Union Worker

Logbook updated

Waiting at the hotel room in Kiruna before going home, we reflect on our conversations with both old and new acquaintenances. It’s been a very good trip. More blogposts await!

We’ve updated the logbook on the Swedish case (click here).

Book Kiruna LKAB Management Media Union Worker

Working hard or hardly working?

On March 18, local newspapers report that two workers at LKAB:s iron ore mine in Malmberget (125 km from Kiruna) have been caught furnishing a secret sleeping room at work. On March 26, they are fired. Two other workers chose to resign.

On March 20, we arrive in Kiruna, and the first person we meet is the man delivering the rental car. He is born and raised in Kiruna, and used to work in the Kiruna mine when he was younger. About miners sleeping at work, also in the Kiruna mine, he just laugh: “Everybody knows!”.

Yes, we’ve also heard this from our many conversations with workers, managers and others in Kiruna, although we must state that we have never seen one of these sleeping spaces ourselves. We have, however, met those who said that they can point such a space out to us. Reactions in social media also reveal that “sleepworkers” seems to be a well-known phenomenon, although this is questioned by the company’s information manager as a way of talking without necessarily knowing that this phenomenon exists in practice.

Both a union representative and the company’s information manager state that sleeping during formal breaks is okay, but not when you’re supposed to work. Perhaps we have to be self-critical, the information manager adds, how this particular case could be allowed to happen.

Several questions are actualized by this event. Assuming that sleeping at work, to a large or small extent, is a real phenomenon,

  • why bring this to media, at this particular time? On March 20, the CEO is in the papers talking about difficult years to come. Does this have anything to do with going public with the sleepworkers?
  • where is management? The workers are revealed and fired, but what about managers? If this is well-known by people outside the gates, it must be known by managers as well. It seems that only the sleeping workers are held responsible and what message is thereby sent to workers (and managers and external stakeholders)?
  • how is it that sleepworkers’ efforts are not made visible? Their efforts should be missed by management and made visible when performance is measured, no?

Underground workers we’ve met talk about the importance of a good work morale and that those workers who work should be at work, nobody else (see the first video with Ronja from October 22, 2015, and the one with Göran from October 15, 2015, for example). We recently heard from an underground worker that they now work harder than ever in order to handle the pressure to increase productivity. In Swedish: “Vi sliter som aldrig förr”. But still, some workers are not.

Swedish sociologist Roland Paulsen, in his book “Empty labor” (Cambridge University Press, 2014), states that: ”sleeping employees represent a theoretical challenge to the supposed rationality of wage labor” (xiii). Empty labor, as “everything you do at work that is not your work” (p 5), is not only very common but also very under-researched, particularly if we see beyond collective ideas about idleness and workplace resistance and zoom in on how and why individuals manage to not work at work. After all, empty labor “can be a trap; it can be a way of coping, a personal pleasure, or a type of sabotage, depending on the organizational context and the subjective intent of the employee” (p 41).

Does sleepworking imply that organizational rationality has to be re-thought, so as to make room for (but not necessarily accept) sleepworking as part of a rational phenomena of organizations, or does it infer a stronger focus to defend the current, dominant discourse of organizational rationality? We lean towards the former (and towards studies – and others – that take such a perspective seriously).

Documentary Iron Kiruna LKAB Luleå Management Moviemaking Researcher Sweden Union Worker

Work and mining

A video interview on work and mining with professor Jan Johansson, Luleå, Sweden (11 minutes):

Aboriginals Cameco Canada Management Supplier Union Uranium Worker

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, Dené] […] The population is young and growing” (CVMPP 2015: 2-5).

According to a recent report from the government of Saskatchewan, the mining industry in northern Saskatchewan employs about 3400 persons of which half are RSN. It also says that 43% of all mine workers are indigenous. Behind this development lies strong legal rights awarded to indigenous people in Canada and what seems to be an explicit political will in Saskatchewan to put pressure on companies to build capacity in the north. We don’t see this in Kiruna, in the county of Norrbotten nor in Sweden in general, which might explain why the Sami people do not play a significant role in the labour process in the Kirunamine (whether this would be a good or a bad thing is another issue).

AREVA and Cameco, running the uranium mines and mills in the north, have to sign two partnership agreements with the Province of Saskatchewan, one human resource development agreement and one mine surface lease agreement, both directed at capacity building in the north (hiring RSN, developing their business opportunities, help provide education/training opportunities etc.). The “surface lease agreements for northern uranium mining projects require companies to participate in a community vitality monitoring program” (2013: 3, the Community Vitality Monitoring Partnership Program, CVMPP). Cameco recommended me to read the reports by the CVMPP and they provide useful information with which to compare my impressions from visiting MCA.

Zooming in on the reports, one report from 2013 targets the socio-economic impacts of uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan. On site, I heard several times that the mine paid well (just as in Kiruna) and in the report it says that “The uranium mining industry provides some of the highest-salaried positions in northern Saskatchewan” (2013: 7), but also that “the average household income and median household income for the population as a whole, when adjusted for inflation, actually decreased between 1981 and 2006. The gap between the average and median household income, an indicator of income inequality, also steadily increased” (2013: 8). The uranium companies are therefore called upon to provide more opportunities for Aboriginal/northern workers in supervisory positions and professional jobs, which reflect what seem to be key challenges in the north. Under the heading “employment” the report states that the number of RSN:

“employed directly in the uranium mining industry increased fourfold from 201 in 1981 to 832 in 2011. The proportion of the direct workforce (i.e., those workers hired directly by the mining companies) made up of RSNs appears to have reached a plateau during the last decade (e.g., about 46% in 2011). When considering both the direct workforce and the workforce hired by long-term contractors (e.g., security services, food services), the proportion of RSNs rose to 47% (2011). This fell short of the 67% target rate set by the Joint Panel in the 1990s, although each of the mining companies continuned to try to find innovative ways to address this gap.” (2013: 7; emphasis added)

One reason for this ‘plateauing’ is the lack of education among RSN: “While the number of northerners 15 years and older with at least a high school certificate or equivalent has increased substantially from 1976 to 2006, education attainment rates in northern Saskatchewan have not reached parity with provincial rates” (2013: 6). Even larger communities in the north usually cannot provide education beyond grade twelve. Basically all aboriginal people I talked to on site at MCA and Key Lake had no higher education, but many had to some extent worked their way up the hierarchy through Cameco’s own training and through work experience. This often meant operating more advanced machines underground in the MCA mine or achieving the highest level of control room operator at the Key Lake mill. In the report, uranium companies are called upon to provide bridging programs between high schools and colleges/universities, but also to invest in early childhood development.

The same year, 2013, a report on RSN in supervisory positions in the uranium industry is published. Although clearly written “from an industry perspective” (2013: 31), it addresses what seems to be an ‘indigenous glass ceiling’: “From 1992 to 2012, the number of RSNs in supervisory postions increased from 18 to 71 or an increase of 394%. Despite this progressive trend, the ration of RSN in supervisory positions versus all supervisory positions continue to remain constant and below 26,4% (Cameco, 2013).” (2013: 8) Again, it is stated that RSN “lack the needed formal education and skills” and that the “uranium mining industry is also becoming far more advanced and technical, requiring specialized training in various occupations” (2013: 26). Other aspects of why there is a lack of RSN in supervisory positions are “that when RSNs do move up in their position it is a ‘sink or swim’ opportunity”, that “where unions are active, they can also be viewed as a factor whether RSNs have opportunities to gain experience” (not all mine sites are unionized), and that “Cultural misinterpretations and misunderstandings continue to occur at the mine sites” (2013: 27).

Some of these problems were addressed already in a 2006 report from the CVMPP. Interesting information is put in the appendix of the report, however, due to the authors not regarding it as central to the specific report and because these problems were not central to the findings of the report. Under the heading “Lack of Northerners”, it is stated that: “Some respondents were unhappy with the proportion of Northerners working at the mines, which they felt was low” (2006: 56). Cultural tensions are also mentioned, but under the heading of “Racism”, where it says that: “Many mine workers, their spouses and community members said that racism was a problem at the mine site. These respondents were discouraged by the lack of Northerners assigned to senior positions” (2006: 56).

In the 2006 report, a “Community Bias” is also addressed: “Some respondents felt that the company was biased in favour of certain regions/communities. In addition, some respondents felt that individual communities were treated differently by the company, either because one community was more vocal or because of their status as a reserve community.” (2006: 56-57) In the socio-economic report, however, this is linked to education and the access to skilled labour: “Some communities has a greater percentage of their workforce employed in the industry than other communities despite being a substantially larger distance away, which tends to relate to the availability of skilled labour in a given location” (2013: 14).

A lot of the responsibility to deal with how to increase the number of aboriginals in supervisory positions is again put on the companies: “based on the long term nature of the uranium industry, it is encouraged that the uranium mining industry partner and invest (where appropriate) in early childhood development and primary education” (2013: 32) and that companies “develop and implement a RSN specific (potential consideration of northern and First Nations culture and socio-economics) leadership program” (2013: 33).

It is as if all roads lead to rather vague recommendations that the companies should use their power to change the labour process to benefit RSN more. To my knowledge, Cameco is doing a lot and perhaps it should do even more given the power asymmetries between company and communities, but this strong corporate focus also shadows the role and responsibilities of other actors.