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Meadowbank miners on the job
Agnico Eagle offers work close to home and fulfilling life

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, April 10, 2017

On two-week rotations, Baker Lake's Devon Killulark works at Agnico Eagle Mine Ltd.'s Meadowbank Gold Mine. It's a life that leaves him free to spend two weeks with his young family and go hunting whenever he wants.

NNSL photograph

Devon Killulark of Baker Lake achieved his Red Seal as a mechanic at Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.'s Meadowbank Gold Mine and he is now the company's highest qualified mechanic at Meadowbank. - photo courtesy of Agnico Eagle

"I was always a little ... too energetic" for high school, 37-year old Killulark recalls. "My mind would start wandering. But when I started working with my hands, I could concentrate."

After studying pre-trades at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, he was working as an apprentice mechanic in his home hamlet, and then the apprenticeship funding ran out.

Working as a truck driver and zoom boom operator left him feeling trapped.

"I had enough of driving. That wasn't for me. I gotta keep moving," he said.

Then he applied to be a mechanic's helper with Agnico Eagle.

"I guess they saw my potential and put me on as an apprentice. I finished up my apprenticeship there," he said.

"Devon is the highest qualified mechanic that we have, including the southerners," said Agnico's Dale Coffin.

Travis Rusk of Rankin Inlet has a similar story. He joined the military after Grade 10, at the age of 17. Now 44, he says most of his background had been in customer service.

He was working for a Meadowbank contractor, laying cement pads for future buildings. Then he joined the geology team as a grade control sampler in late 2011.

"His team really enjoyed working with him," said Coffin. "It was Travis' supervisor who recommended he consider becoming a haul truck operator."

Rusk says he was content, but a friend pushed him to try driving the haul trucks.

"To get a couple of friends off my back about it I signed up and tried it out. After about six rotations when I could finally calm down enough to relax behind the wheel of those trucks, I found I really enjoyed it, more than the last job," said Rusk.

Rusk continues to be promoted. He trains new drivers and also works as relief on auxiliary equipment.

Working at the mine site on a two-weeks-in, two-weeks-out rotation suits both men, though it's a bit harder on Killulark now that he has a wife and three children.

"Before I started my family, it was a snap. Easy. Easy. When you get a family it's a little harder," said Killulark. "But you've got to remember you're trying to provide for them."

He says video chat with his family gets him through.

"It's challenging at times, but there's a sense of accomplishment when you're all done. You have to work hard for what you want."

Rusk says he like the rotations.

"It's very nice. My daughter's grown up now, so it's not so hard leaving home. I spend as much time with my co-workers as I do my family and I'm always happy to see them both," he said.

Killulark and Rusk could work anywhere in Canada now, but both are happy to have well-paying jobs within reach of their home communities and families.

"For me, there is a mine closer to my home (Agnico's Meliadine mine just outside Rankin) but I do like it at Meadowbank. It would be hard to leave," said Rusk.

Coffin says employees at Meadowbank who come from Rankin will have that option to transfer over. He also notes the children of mine employees are always given summer jobs when they pursue post-secondary education.

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