As Sabina Gold and Silver marches toward transforming its Back River gold project into the Kitikmeot’s second gold mine, Jimmy Porter and Kokiak Peetooloot are two of the people keeping things moving, literally.
Porter, from Gjoa Haven, and Peetooloot, a Taloyoak resident, operate loaders and other machinery, such as rigs with telescopic arms, to place supplies and equipment where they need to be at the Goose camp.
“There’s always stuff to move every day,” says Porter.
During the coldest months, the heavy equipment is stored in a quonset hut to protect its from the frigid temperatures, Peetooloot says.
“So we don’t have a problem in the winter with the machines,” he says.
Like any job, some days are busier than others. In scheduling their interview with Northern News Services in late September, their supervisor indicated they wouldn’t be available one day due to steady demand from loading and unloading cargo from airplanes.
Other tasks include snow clearing and refuelling drill equipment.
Porter started work at the Back River project in 2006, before Sabina was an active player in the exploration site. Dundee Precious Metals was in possession of the property prior to Sabina purchasing it in 2009.
“We got busier because the camp got bigger,” Porter says of the progress made at the site over the years.
Peetooloot, who has been a Sabina employee since February 2013, has also noticed the growth.
“It’s starting to be a lot of people.” he says. “It’s good. It’s a nice camp here. I like it.”
In the evenings, when their duties are completed, there are sometimes opportunities to go boating, play pool or watch TV in the lounge. There are also phones and computers with Internet access, making it possible to stay in touch with family back home. They get to see their loved ones for two weeks, flying to their communities via Yellowknife, after four consecutive weeks of work.
The food served at camp is “not so bad,” according to Peetooloot.
Char is sometimes on the menu, Porter says. Workers are able to bring traditional foods if they choose, he adds.
There’s heightened awareness of how the industrial activity at the site could affect surrounding nature, says Peetooloot.
“They’re very careful monitoring the wildlife right now,” he says. “If we see animals, we call logistics and tell them where it is, how far it is.”
Sabina is Peetooloot’s primary employer, helping him support his family. He’s not alone. There are close to 20 other Kitikmeot residents who are employed at the site, Porter says.
“It creates jobs. It benefits everybody; it keeps people from the communities working,” Porter says of mining and exploration activity, adding that he plans to carry on with it for years to come. “It’s a good paying job, a lot of good experience and I meet a lot of people.”
“It helps a lot,” Peetooloot adds.