An hour and a half north of La Sarre, in Abitibi, at the gateway to James Bay, stands one of the region's largest mines, Casa Berardi, owned by Hecla Mining, a Quebec subsidiary of a mining company. 'Idaho.
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The Journal had access to this gold mine, which began production in 1988. A total of 1,200 employees work there every day. Most come from the immediate area.
This is the case of Jean Gagné, a 53-year-old miner, who worked five years underground.
" I liked that. It becomes your daily life. But not everyone is able to work underground. Some may panic, but this was not my case, ”he says.
One thing is certain, when you go down as deep as a kilometer deep, it's all about safety.
“You have to manage your stress and be safe. When you arrive at your workstation, the first business, you have to inspect your place, is there a loose rock? You are neglecting nothing,” he explains.
The same goes for Ronald Bordeleau, the mainstay of mine maintenance. The miner's worst enemy is lack of preparation. What must be avoided is a tragedy in the 200 km of dug galleries.
“The worst thing that can happen is a fire. It is the pet peeve of all mining companies, we make sure to protect our people, there are also regulations. But there are also shelters below, each person who works must have one nearby, ”explains the maintenance superintendent.
"But knock on wood, there was never a major fire," he said.
Workers do seven days on and seven days off. The attraction of the mines? Proximity and salary.
“It pays off, that’s for sure. Between $60,000 and $120,000, it depends on the jobs. But it is physically difficult. When we get on the bus at night, we sleep, we don't chat, "says Jean Gagné jokingly.