Remote mines in Canada turn to better food to attract workers

September 8, 2014

As Canada’s mining sector continues to expand to the north the competition for qualified workers has also increased. High wages is one incentive to work at the fly-in, fly-out mines, but when wages are not enough some companies have turned to food to attract workers.

The National Post reported on a developing trend to treat employees of these remote mine with gourmet meals prepared by professional chefs using the finest ingredients.

According to the report, food costs at some mine sites can reach upwards of $20 million annually.

The reason for the expense is simple supply and demand. A 2012 Mining Association of Canada report predicted the industry will need 100,000 more workers in the next decade.

Mining companies know they have to step up their game if they want to attract the best new miners.

“We have the best restaurant north of 60,” Dale Coffin, director of corporate communications with Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. told the National Post. The “restaurant” is located at Agnico Eagle’s Meadowbank mine in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region, 170 km south of the Arctic Circle.

The mine is a fly-in fly-out operation, with 50 percent of workers coming from Quebec and 30 percent from Nunavut. Most workers work a two-on, two-off shift, spending two weeks on site and then getting a two-week break.

Conditions can be tough. Workers are separated from family, temperatures can dip to minus 70 C with the wind-chill, winter days are dark and alcohol is banned. For some, food is the only comfort.

Along with improved accommodations – many rooms are now suite-style, instead of dorms – food quality and variety has also improved.

“The trend has been toward fresh, away from frozen, pre-prepared stuff, away from greasy, french fry stuff. People are much more interested in healthy options,” said Dave O’Connor, managing director of Outland Camps, a catering and remote workforce company.

In 2014, his company serviced 60 remote camp sites for various industries throughout Canada. O’Connor said demand for catering services has increased over the past decade.
 

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