I spoke to Mario Seguin to find out in his experience, what life as an underground miner is really all about.
This is what he told me:
1 Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be an underground miner?
My name is Mario Seguin and I currently work for Dominion Construction as a Supervisor and Grout Specialist. I work out of every mine in Sudbury grouting Diamond Drill holes and doing various underground construction mining projects. I was a construction miner and production miner beforehand and worked many shutdowns in various mines.
The story about me getting into underground mining is a very simple and direct one. I was always looking for something new and challenging, so when my father, who was working underground at the time, asked me if I wanted to go for an interview at a local mining contractor, I simply said yes.
2. What does a typical day involve?
At the moment, I’m working at Totten mine grouting long holes. I get to the mine around 6 o’clock and head to the diamond drill lineup. I get to the cage and wait to go underground. I usually get a ride to the drilling program from whomever offers it and start grouting right away, if the appropriate prep was done that is. It’s a very simple but work intensive thing grouting. Lots of repetition… Filling the grout pump hopper half way with water, mix in 3-4 bags 20kg of Portland cement, depending on the consistency required, and pump, repeating this process until the hole is filled and cement come out of the “collar” of the hole.
I’ve been doing this job for a little over a year now and it is filled with it’s own challenges, mostly revolving around finding and getting work as I work alone on these jobs. I find my own work you could say, a lot of emails and phone calls go into setting up even a simple job like grouting. Not to mention all the material that needs to get to site somehow and the ordering of said material.
3. What is the best thing about your job?
The satisfaction of a job well done. I represent Dominion Construction down there and always try to do my best to hit my goals and the goals of my clients. The trick is to set personal goals higher than the clients, as he/she would be satisfied either way. There’s a lot of self motivation that comes along with the job I do. I do have the support of the Vale Diamond Drill Division, but mostly I have to see the work gets done personally. It’s been a challenge that I’ve met with passion.
4. What is the worst thing about your job?
The heat underground. I’m not one that copes well with high heat. Actually when I started underground, I was working at Stobie Mine, which has what they call “ice fields”, and it was relatively cool underground. When I switched mines and went to Creighton, it was a bit of a shock. On a good day it was in the low 30 degrees Celsius and it really took a tole. My first day at Creighton was on a jackleg drilling dewydags in a support wall for a rock shute.
About 1/4 of the way through the shift, both my arms seized and I couldn’t lower them without help. I had not followed the heat stroke instructions and had over worked myself and had not drank enough water. Coleman has the worst heat in the summer and the mine shuts headings down frequently. Bring water.
5. Do you ever get scared working underground?
I’ve only gotten scared at the “Near Misses”, to use the parlance of the industry, close calls that could have ended badly. I’ve worked for a couple of different employers and don’t want to divulge which contractor I was working for at the time, but I’ve had a close call with a fall of ground drilling up North.
My partner and I were bolting a round after we had mucked out, and as we were putting up our second row of bolts, the “back”, the top of a mining drift, let loose and almost rolled onto us. The thing that saved us was our training, always having a bolt over our heads, and the screen pusher. It had wedged on a previously installed bolt and had made the chunk role away from us.
Probably the top three scariest moments in my life.
6.Do you have any advice for youngsters considering underground mining as a career?
Don’t be afraid to refuse unsafe work. To many young people are scared to speak up and often run headlong into dangerous scenarios without having the proper information and training to do so. The industry has become much safer over the years, but accidents happen.
Not to deter people with the drive and motivation to get into the industry, because I love my job and the different ways it can branch out. Young people with a head on their shoulders that love physical work should really consider this as a career.
7. Did you have to do a medical in order to become an underground miner and if so what tests do they do?
I’ve never had to specifically get a physical or anything of the sort from the employers for which I have worked. I’ve found those to be site specific. I’ve had to get a physical for a mine in Timmins because it was part of the indoctrination process.
8. Do you think mining companies are paying enough attention to the health and safety of their miners?
I think they’ve gotten exponentially better over the years, even from when I started working in the mines. It is as though they’ve tried to implement a frame of mind and ideology instead of forcing rules upon workers. That said, I think the industry has to acknowledge more common-sense approaches to many aspects of mining.
What I mean is that health and safety should always be the number one priority, but not go so far down the safety rabbit hole as to impede hard work and common-sense practices. This is just a personal opinion based on my years underground, but I think people will surprise you given a bit of freedom and space and make the right decision.