Fulfillment at the end of a road to nowhere

By Neville Judd, Communications Director

They don’t sell postcards in Flin Flon, Manitoba; at least none that I’ve found. It’s a desperately cold place most of the year. But then so is most of Canada in winter.

“Chilly” is how the pilot describes it upon landing. Helen at the car rental desk confirms that, yes, it’s cold. “But a dry cold.”

How cold?

Minus 39.6, according to the airport’s only baggage handler. “We’ll call it minus 40,” he says. Celsius? Fahrenheit? It doesn’t matter. My idea of cold will never be the same. Lager’s cold. But February 1st in Flin Flon is worthy of its own definition of cold.

My colleague Javier Carranza and I are here for Hexagon’s Mining division, filming a testimonial video in Flin Flon’s underground copper mine. Transporting camera gear from minus 30s above ground to plus 25 (77F) a mile below ground is challenging. Javier has been careful to wrap lenses in fabric and plastic to avoid frost damage.

Flin Flon, Manitoba – where Canadians invented the phrase “It’s a dry cold”.

Like most mines, Flin Flon is in the middle of nowhere, which suits me just fine. Rarely do I feel more fulfilled in my job than when I am visiting mines, interviewing miners, and seeing the benefits created by our technology. The newsletters and press releases I write in my comfortable office are important but the stories we film in mines are what I remember.

Sometimes it’s the journey that’s memorable. On one shoot near Zacatecas, Mexico, the mine dispatched a Learjet to pick us up and drop us off in Tucson, Arizona. Flying economy class has never been the same.

In Lima, Peru, Javier and I underwent rigorous medicals before being admitted to the customer’s copper mine, 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) up in the Andes. The medicals concluded that we both needed to lose weight, but we were cleared for entry. Neither of us ate much for a week after that. It may have been the altitude sickness.

On our very first shoot in northern British Columbia, Canada, we’d budgeted a day and a half for filming. We had not bargained for a four-hour safety induction, which included 30 minutes on the proper way to wear a hard hat and a drug test. (We passed!)

On the road in Colombia. The longest weekend of Javier’s life. (And mine.)

And then there was the video visit to a Colombian mine. On the last night, I herniated a disc while rolling over in bed. (I know, I wish I had a better story!) The nine-hour drive to the airport and the four flights back to Canada might have been the longest weekend of my life. (Listening to the whining and complaining, Javier confirms it was the longest weekend of his life.)

No matter the mine, help and hospitality are always in abundance. Miners are a welcoming bunch and I’ve yet to visit a site where I was anything less than impressed with the importance placed on safety. Several truck operators have told me how our collision avoidance system has saved their lives and the lives of others.

Economy class has never felt the same after that time in the Learjet.

Those moments make my job all the more rewarding. That and places like Flin Flon, home to Flinty, a statue of a cartoonish-looking prospector. Gloves off, I quickly photograph Flinty – built in tribute to Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin.

Flonatin appears in a sci-fi novel called The Sunless City. He pilots a submarine through a bottomless lake and into an underground world through a hole lined with gold. Prospector Tom Creighton had a copy of the book when he stumbled on a rich vein of copper here in 1918.

Flin Flon might be the only town named after a character in a dime-store paperback.

But that’s another story.

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