Barrick's Hemlo Mine in Canada Provides Opportunities for First Nation Students

Jan 26, 2012 10:18 AM ET

Barrick's Beyond Borders

Myles Michano was studying to be a nurse in Thunder Bay, Ontario, in late 2009 when his grandmother, who had raised him from infancy, was stricken with cancer. Michano’s grandmother, Myra, was 76 years old at the time and lived on the Pic River First Nation reserve about three hours east of Thunder Bay. She raised Michano on the reserve together with his grandfather, Eli, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and no longer lives at home. When Michano learned of his grandmother’s condition, he left school immediately and returned to Pic River to care for her and help with finances. “She’s my everything,” he says. “My mum, grandmum, my doctor and my nurse.”

Before registering in nursing school, Michano, 29, spent the previous two summers working as a summer student at Barrick’s Hemlo operation, which is about 30 minutes from Pic River. Several months after he returned home, Michano received a call from Roger Souckey, Superintendent of Employee Relations at Hemlo. Souckey had gotten to know Michano during his summer stints at Hemlo and was calling to offer him an environmental monitoring job. “Roger told me he couldn’t think of anyone better to do it,” Michano says. “That made me feel pretty good.”

The job was ideal for Michano, as it allowed him to work two days a week with the environmental department at Hemlo and the other three days at Pic River where he could be close to his grandmother. His work at Pic River involved the development of an environmental-monitoring policy for the reserve, while at Hemlo Michano worked in the field, taking water samples, conducting tailings inspections and monitoring pipelines to ensure there were no leaks.

Michano’s salary was paid by Hemlo as part of a long-standing labor agreement between the mining operation and First Nation communities near the Hemlo operation. “This was a good opportunity for Myles, who certainly deserved it,” Souckey says.