A Day in the Life of a Miner

posted: 14/03/2022

The life of a miner is unique. Even more so when working in an underground nickel mine, on the edge of Nunavik, on a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) schedule. This famous FIFO is what attracted Ghislain to apply and become a miner at Raglan Mine 14 years ago. This atypical schedule means that he spends two to three consecutive weeks at the mine site, followed by the same period of leave. 

It's a special working schedule, when I'm at the site, I'm 100% committed, and as long as I'm there, I prefer to work as many hours as possible. On the other hand, when I come back home to Rouyn, it allows me to be 100% present for my wife and daughters, and to devote time to my woodlot, which I own with my brothers.

When Ghislain starts a new rotation, his route is similar to that of his colleagues. After a flight to Donaldson airport, he boards the bus that shuttles him to the main complex in Katinniq. During the 25 minutes it takes to reach the site, he chats with colleagues and catches up on everyone's news. The atmosphere is friendly and pleasant. On arrival at Katinniq, he is welcomed by the accommodation team and the Health Service team, which carries out the PCR tests for new arrivals. In this small city, needless to say, everything is done to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

After an evening in quarantine in his room, which he spends setting up his personal belongings, having dinner and watching a movie, Ghislain goes to bed early to prepare for his next 21 days of work. At 5:00 a.m. the next morning, he heads to the cafeteria for breakfast. The plate looks big for the average person, but is fairly standard for miners, who do physical work; scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, bacon, fruit and coffee. That morning, the kitchen team made homemade bagels, straight from the oven. Worthy of mention, when you think that everything is cooked for nearly 850 people. That said, for Ghislain, the meal that is most worth the detour is certainly the lobster supper, eagerly awaited each year by the workers.   

Does Ghislain miss his family when he is on rotation at the mine site? "I certainly miss my wife and daughters, but we've all gotten used to this lifestyle, and we've found our balance. They are happy when I come home, but they are also happy when I leave! Ah ah ah!"

It must also be mentioned that life at Raglan offers a lot to keep employees entertained between their work shifts. "There's everything here, a gym, a walking trail, movie nights, bingo, arcades, a tanning room (I haven't used it yet...). You can create a nice network of friends. Moreover, Ghislain admits that his fondest memory of the site is one Christmas when the kitchen team wore red aprons and one of his former supervisors was Santa Claus. "There was more than team spirit, it was like celebrating Christmas with your family". In fact, the comment that frequently comes up here is that Raglan is a second family.

Ghislain has a high school diploma, works a 3-2-2-3* schedule and enjoys the following benefits:

  • $140,000

    Annual base salary

  • $10,000

    Performance bonus

  • $5,000

    Nickel production bonus

  • 20 days


* A 3-2-2-3 schedule means 3 weeks on for 2 weeks off, then 2 weeks on for 3 weeks off.

**According to the most recent mining industry compensation study, the average hourly wage for a miner ranges from $26.26 to $43.18, with an average of $37. According to the Comité sectoriel de main-d'oeuvre de l'industrie des mines (CSMO), the average annual salary is $116,000 (with all eligible bonuses). The average miner has a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS) in mineral extraction. 

N.B. Ghislain is a fictional character inspired by the lives of various Raglan Mine employees.