Ashton Kadjuk has parlayed his experience in drilling into a supervisory position at Agnico Eagle’s new Meliadine gold mine.
Kadjuk oversees a crew of 19 underground workers, who toil up to 325 metres below the surface. The mine tunnels deeper but there’s other supervisors responsible farther down, he noted.
He spends about half of his shift going from worksite to worksite within his zone to ensure duties are executed properly, safe practices are maintained and hazards are understood.
“I’ve got to make sure everything is up to standards and everything will be safe for the guys to work in,” he said.
Outside of that, he takes care of necessary paperwork and does a great deal of planning for his workers and for the 12-hour shift that follows.
Kadjuk previously worked for a year at Meliadine with a contractor, as a driller on an exploration project near Baker Lake, at another project near Yellowknife and spent a couple of years at the now defunct Snap Lake diamond mine in the NWT.
Agnico Eagle hired him close to a year ago. He said he took the supervisor’s job for “the challenge.”
“I’ve always been interested in mining so it was a good way to learn about it,” he said. “I just wanted to be an example for Inuit to work underground here.”
He’s seeing more and more familiar faces at Meliadine, he said.
“Since I started working here, I’ve seen a lot of Inuit coming into mining and underground. I know a few guys here that are from Arviat,” said Kadjuk.
He described his crew as “the best” and “the hardest-working people.”
“That’s something very special to see,” he said, adding that there’s remarkable teamwork.
It’s not uncommon in workplaces for a new supervisor to discover that some longer-serving subordinate employees may not be immediately accepting of a new boss, especially one who’s younger.
“I gave them respect and they give me the respect back. That’s good on that part,” Kadjuk, 28, said of relations with the employees in his charge.
Although he’s already reached supervisory status, he aspires to eventually transition to other departments, such as construction and production, to gain a better understanding of the broader picture, he said.
Kadjuk graduated from high school in his hometown of Arviat and then went to Winnipeg to take a university-level computer science program. During a semester off, he returned to Arviat and registered for a diamond-drilling course, getting hired right after.
“That was my introduction to mining,” he said.
Having five years experience in the industry, Kadjuk said he’s used to the cycles of two weeks at site and two weeks at home.
“I get to spend two weeks with my family and go hunting. I have my two weeks free to do what I want,” he said, adding that he also enjoys playing guitar and travelling.
Leaving for work means boarding a plane in Arviat, landing in Rankin Inlet and then taking a 45-minute bus ride to Meliadine.
He said his family and friends have been encouraging of his career choices.
“There have been a lot of people asking me about mining and how they can get into mining,” he said. “My family, everybody’s proud of me for getting a job like this.”