Lionel Quinangnaq has climbed the ladder from surveyor’s helper to relief supervisor at Agnico Eagle’s Amaruq gold deposit.
He’s now responsible a crew of close to 20 mine vehicle operators.
“I like it,” Quinangnaq says of his new position. “I tell people what machines they’re going to be on.”
He’s also responsible for checking that the plan is followed for the drill and rock patterns; ensuring the bulldozers are pushing materials to the designated locations, including the waste dumps; maintaining all the haul roads in and around the pit; wall scaling – the removal of loose rock – must be carried out for worker safety; and work cards are completed for each employee. The latter detail daily work activities and observations pertaining to health and safety and the environment.
“He’s a busy man and he’s impressing me every day,” says Mathieu Aubin, Amaruq’s general foreman and Quinangnaq’s boss.
Quinangnaq, who hails from Baker Lake, got his first taste of the mining industry as a summer student doing surveying work. He became a haul truck driver in 2006, helping to construct the road between the Meadowbank mine and Baker Lake.
He was also trained to operate bulldozers, loaders and graders over the years.
Quinangnaq took some time away between 2013 and 2015, but then got behind the wheels of the colossal vehicles once again.
Safety is never far from his mind at the worksite, he says.
“You’ve got to be very cautious around these big machines and make sure that there’s some berms that will stop the machines if there’s (a problem) as they come off the pit or off the ramp,” he says.
The pace of work at Meadowbank and Amaruq was initially quite a contrast, he adds. Meadowbank was recently winding down after nearly a decade of gold production so it wasn’t nearly as active as it used to be. Meanwhile Amaruq was scaling up, meaning construction was brisk when he arrived.
“It was nice and busy,” he says.
After he’s done his shift for the day, he says essentially everything he needs is at the camp, including a well-equipped gym. The only thing that’s lacking at Amaruq that he used to enjoy at Meadowbank was a music room, stocked with a variety of instruments like a piano, guitars, drums and accordions.
“I like to listen to people play them,” he says.
The two-week in/two week-out rotations have become a routine part of Quinangnaq’s life at this stage.
“Every time I’m at work, I try to keep my personal life at home. I try not to think of home so much,” he says.
Although he has no children of his own, he’s close to his nieces and nephews and enjoys spending time with them when he’s back in Baker Lake. He believes his career has been an influence on them.
“They look up to me. I’m pretty sure that they want to be like me,” he says. “I just tell them, ‘If you want to be like me you’ve got to stay in school and do what your supervisor says, what your teacher says.’”
Quinangnaq isn’t about to rest on his laurels, however. He says he aspires to become production supervisor in the next five years and then general foreman.