Underground circa 1980.
It is time for me to retire. I was 25 when CMJ hired me; now I am turning 70 on Nov. 4, and I have chosen the end of that month to call a halt. Forty-five years seems like a good run as an observer of an industry I am passionate about and that has become a large part of my life.
While retirement is a tectonic shift for me, I’m sure our geologist friends won’t be offering new theories about continental drift.
The first mine I visited was Sidbec Normines iron mine near Fermont, Que. It has come and gone, and iron ore production is coming back to that corner of the world. The first time I went to Saskatchewan I was underground at the Main mine in Flin Flon, Man. The first gold mine I visited was the old McIntyre mine in Schumacher, Ont.… I’m dating myself.
Some of our loyal readers probably weren’t born when I took up the pen – later to be computer. For those old enough to remember back to the mid-’70s, they will recall that women in mining were a novelty.
For a few years I was the only female at the Canadian Mineral Processors meeting in Ottawa every January. My streak was broken when Judy Erola, the federal junior minister for mining, addressed the assembly.
I was once told by the superintendent giving me a tour that I should tuck my hair up under my hard hat because the cage tender we were about to meet held to the old superstition that women in mines were bad luck.
Another time when I was investigating the No. 3 shaft project at the Dome mine, the sinking crew held to the same superstition.
But they insisted the luck could be reversed if I joined them in the dry.
I can take the kidding because by and large Canadian miners are respectful. It has been a privilege to put into words the hard and challenging work they do.
The travel has been a bonus, too. I have seen parts of Canada east and west. I’ve seen the High Arctic, the peaks of the Andes Mountains, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom. As a guest at these projects, I was shown the ropes in a candid and informative manner.
Importantly, the 45 years I’ve spent observing the mining sector have been a time of positive change. No longer is environmental degradation tolerated. Today’s industry shares knowledge and benefits with Indigenous peoples in Canada and abroad. The recovery of gold remains a rich vein for improvement. And computers, cell phones and all that now-indispensable technology has taken over our personal as well as working lives. We can tell more stories, more quickly to more people than ever before. That is especially true when we fire information into the cybersphere. Technical data is shared in more detail than was ever possible even 15 years ago.
(I mention this because in the late ‘70s a national courier service told me they didn’t deliver to Thompson, Man., and they would put my package in the snail mail. So much for timely arrival.) Thanks to all our readers over the past 45 years for welcoming me at their projects and sharing with me all that was and is important to them. It has been a pleasure to know so many of you.
MARILYN SCALES can be reached at email@example.com.