Here InterGroup’s experience with northern geography and northern cultures was a real benefit to CVMPP in engaging communities to help answer these questions. InterGroup encouraged the participation of northern representatives on our steering committees, as well as hiring local individuals to assist with some of the consultations. That level of local involvement in the process has proven beneficial in getting cooperation from all our communities.
One of the studies undertaken by InterGroup and the CVMPP looked at the impact on families and communities of the fly-in fly-out work rotation system in uranium mining, the first in-depth study of its kind in Canada. The study exposed a need for better communications while workers were at the mine site, as well as for better understanding of families’ experiences while workers were away from home. From these findings, InterGroup and the CVMPP recommended the installation of cellular telephone towers at the mine site, so that workers could phone home whenever they needed, as well as advocating for the continuation and expansion of a family visitation program that allowed curious family members to visit the mine sites. Both initiatives have had positive effects for the miners and their families.
Irvine says that the study also turned up a few surprises. For example, they went into the study thinking that the fly-in fly-out model might be shown to be just as disruptive of traditional lifestyles as the old town site model, but the study showed that wasn’t the case.
“We assumed that because we were flying people in and out of their home communities that they would be less involved with traditional activities. It was actually the opposite that was found. Some of the mine workers felt that the fly-in fly-out model gave them access to employment they might not otherwise have. As a result, they had the financial resources to buy the skidoos or the boats to get out on the land and time to participate more in their traditional hunting and fishing activities.”
One person who has experienced those positives first hand is Freddie Throassie, a Community Liaison officer for Cameco. A miner himself for 23 years, Throassie says flying in to work for seven days at a time actually gave him more time to enjoy his traditional pursuits, something that was echoed by the study.
“I was brought up on the land and every chance I get out there. The seven days off gave me the opportunity to get out there, something that I couldn’t do with a regular 9 to 5 job. That extra time has also allowed me to teach traditional survival skills to the younger generation and show them how our ancestors used to live back in the days when they lived off the land.”
Throassie says that his job as a community liaison officer has also given him a better appreciation for having a consultant like InterGroup working with Cameco and AREVA.