The mining industry is a dynamic, exciting, and an amazingly diverse sector with more than 120 occupations ranging from skilled trades to high tech professionals.
If mining is an industry you are considering a career in, have you considered what it would be like to be a Heavy Equipment Operator?
Justin Achneepineskum a Heavy Equipment Operator in Canada, tells us all about his job.
By : Justine Achneepineskum
“6 am. Alarm buzzes. I wake up. Still drowsy. I stand. Back cracks like knuckles. Not young anymore. I hit the shower. Put on clothes. Jacket. Work boots. Out the door before, 6:30. I warm up the truck. Sip my coffee from my travel mug. Listen to the radio. Fair weather. I drive. Navy blue sky. All clear. Dark green trees. Sun on the horizon, bleeding in an orange haze.
Get to the woodlot. Wood cutting machine is there. Excavator. Tandem truck. Front-end loader. What are we doing today, I wonder. Hmmmm…. hauling sand. I get to my machine; the Excavator, a Caterpillar 312D. An oldie. Lots of scratch marks. Chipped paint. Rust marks. Has seen many years of work. She still has some life in her. I do a circle check. Training taught me to always look for oddities and abnormalities. Loose bolts. Cracked hoses. Fissures on the boom and dipstick. I check the tracks. Some sand. Gotta shovel that later. No leaks. Good! Checked the fluids. All good!
I start up the big girl. A low rumble growls from the engine. Blue-gray smoke burns off morning sediment from its tailpipe. I let my body rest for a moment in the cab of the excavator. Still drowsy, but the principle of work keeps me going. I rev up the engine. It growls louder. Then, we’re off into the bush. Heading to the sand pit.
Every bump wakes me up even more. A small delight grows in me. Me–sitting in a thirty thousand pound monster of pure steel. Just able to bully trees on a whim. Who would have thought of that? Five years ago, I was a lazy, directionless gamer. Now, I thrill in digging and hauling.
I get to the site. Scratch the sand. Scoop up a load of sand into the bucket. Slap it on the platform that settled differently from the night before. I slope it, easing the bucket’s back on the sand creating a smooth slide where my tracks would go. I pull myself up on the sand platform then shovel a good pile of gravel ready. I’ve got to separate junk white clay from the good stuff. Or mix it in with more granular sands for a good load.
People depend on my work. Sand is needed for the village’s housing project. The tandem truck comes. Coworker is just on time. He backs in towards the platform. His reversing alarm buzzing intermittently. I aim the bucket adjacent to the dump box. Teeth down. He needs to see how far the arm goes. He stops. Steps out of the truck. Ready for a load. I move the boom swiftly to the readied load. Scoop up a full bucket of sand. Ease it into the truck. Spreading it out as evenly as I could. I do this several more times. I scratch the heaping pile lightly. Horizontally. Don’t want to push on the suspensions.
The truck’s now full. He drives off. I ready another load. Bundling gravel into piles. Then, I rev the machine down and wait. Takes him 10 to 15 minutes to get there and unload. We do this all day from 7 am to 7 pm. Lunch in between. Lunch on the go. We don’t like to stop. We want to be constantly on the move. The more work the better.
But a childish thrill surges in me with every time the bucket dips into the sand. Heavy duty, heavy working toys of colossal size with the power to unshape landscapes and grasslands. The flow of the boom and dipstick with every repetition shuts out all thoughts of trouble and problems. Only the fluidity of digging cycles has me in complete focus. For out there in the outback, troubles are left behind. Only progress is made one step at a time. Soon the housing platforms will be done and a loader will level it off.
And as I ease the excavator engine on a low at the end of the day back at the woodlot that stores all the machines, I know that all the wants and hopes of wanting and wishing sand were there will be quenched. The workers can bury the water lines. Carpenters can level the house. Plumbers can keep burrowed the septic tank. All the little features needed for smooth living will be there. All because of a little work done each day.
I get home. Untie my work boots. Eat a bit of supper. Check the mail. Get to my room. Ease off the heavy work clothes and lay on my bed. My back welcomes the softness of the mattress, decompressing all anxieties and worries in each spine knuckle. I close my eyes. Heavy from constant attention. Darkness rushes in. I sleep.”