[preamble]McArthur River is the world’s top-producing uranium mine, but it’s no wider than two football fields. Mother Nature has done her best to hide this treasure within a sponge-like bed of water-filled sandstone. To reach the ore, mining company Cameco has built a curtain of ice around it by drilling hundreds of freeze holes. Minestories spoke to senior geological technologist Tara Maccan about her work at the mine.
What is so special about this mine?
“This is the highest-grade uranium in the world, and it sits below 500 metres of sandstone. It’s different working here from any other mine.”
As a geological technologist, what are your responsibilities?
“I primarily look after the freeze-hole drilling. We provide support and technical supervision. I also do pressure tests and leak tests. After a hole is completed we’re doing a deviation survey. All the information is put into a database and monitored throughout the drilling programme. I have a little bit of a double role, since I also do some work with the production side of the mining, but we’re more of a technical support.”
What work roster does the mine’s remote location dictate?
“I have a one-week rotation. I fly in on Thursday afternoon and stay for seven days, then go back home for seven days. Here I work 11-hour shifts, from 6:30 in the morning to 6:30 at night. We have a team working night shifts too, so we’re running 24/7.”
How long have you worked here?
“I celebrated my fifth anniversary in April in 2013. Before that, I was doing civil engineering for the city of Saskatoon. I did almost a 180-degree turn in 2008 when the mining industry was picking up again, from civil engineering to mining. I had a big learning curve, but so far it’s been really good and I’ve been quite successful.”
Are you the only female technologist?
“We have a junior geologist who is a woman, but for a tech I’m the only one. The guys treat me really well. I’ve never had an issue with that. I think I have proven myself to earn their respect. I didn’t expect to be treated like a woman either. I do get my hands dirty.”
About Tara Maccan
Position: Senior geological technologist with Cameco, based at the McArthur River mine in northern Saskatchewan, Canada.
From: Grew up in Saskatoon, 600 kilometres from the mine where she now works.
Residence: Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Career: Studied geology but started working for the city of Saskatoon, then took a career turn to the mining industry. She’s been with Cameco for six years.