2010 Mining Week in Saskatchewan runs from May 31 - June 5.
Mining companies operating in Saskatchewan produced 15.6% of Canada’s total mineral output in 2009. Locally, the mines at Estevan and Coronach produced 60% of the coal used to produce Province’s base load of electrical power.
Sherritt Coal operates the Poplar River Mine (PRM) coal mine, near Coronach, contributing, in a major way, to the sustainability of the community of Coronach and a number of surrounding communites.
PRM is a open pit coal mine, supplying coal to SaskPower’s Poplar River Power Station, their sole customer.
Triangle News talked to Brian Cairns, Mine Manager of PRM near Coronach.
Cairns reported that the PRM sells 3.4-3.5 million tonnes of coal a year to SaskPower.
Cairns talked about the mining industry. He said, “safety is first and foremost in our industry. The open pit mining industry as a whole
has a lost time injury rate of .5% (time lost claims to Workers Compensation Board - divided by the number of worker per year) versus the provincial average of 3.44%. What that boils down to is it is a safe industry to work in and we’ve got to attribute that to our workers.”Cairns shared about what the PRM does to ensure the mine is a safe work place. “Education is a big thing; education, training. Safety meetings, working with our people to make it a safer place to work is what we do, lets face it, our workers are the ones that are out there every day doing the work and they are the ones that are going to see
the hazards and bring them to our attention or they’ll address it themselves.”
As well as the open pit mining industry as a whole having a low lost time injury rate, Cairns believes that PRM is a very safe
workplace. “The current record at PRM is 435 days without a lost time accident, our last lost time accident was January 2, 2009.” said
As well as safety, Cairns says the environment is key to the mining industry. “It is right up there with safety.” said Cairns.
He talked about the land and the mining process. “From the time we strip the topsoil to the time that we have hay back on it, we are
probably looking at around 4 years.”
“We have to be good stewards of the land, and (follow the) regulations that govern us as far as returning the land to normal use, (which is) agriculture.” According to Cairns, the mine must follow regulations put forth by the provincial environmental departments, as far as the amount of slope the land can have after reclaim and the thickness of the cover soil, once it is replaced. “We seed all of our reclaimed land back to tame hay and it’s a great help, I think to the local farmers. We have farmers coming as far away as 100 miles to cut this hay. I guess we want to be good neighbours, that’s what we want to be.” said Cairns.
The PRM, along with SaskPower PRPS, are major employers in the area. According to Cairns, the Poplar River Mine employs 137 hourly (represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) and 26 staff from all of the surrounding communities and as far away as Moose Jaw and Regina.
“Our workers are involved in the communities, I believe the mine is active whereever we can be, when we lend out equipment for golf courses, or school grounds and it is run on a volunteer basis by our employees. Our people are not just here to collect a paycheque, they do get involved in the communities, whether they are coaching hockey or basketball, or just keeping the rinks open, but they also run equipment that we donate.”
Provincially, the Saskatchewan Mining Association is hosting provincial awareness activities such as a province-wide billboard campaign. Mining executives will be making presentations accross the province to Chambers of Commerce, Boards of Tourism, Trade and Commerce and Business Associations. As well, free public tours are being offered at Sherritt Coal’s Boundary Dam Mine and SaskPower’s Shand Power Station at Estevan.
The week will wrap up Saturday, June 5 at the 42 Annual Emergency Response/Mine Rescue Skills Competition at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon. The Emercency Rescue Team from PRM will be competing.