Mobile Miners: Long Distance Commuting among Mine workers in Whitehorse, Yukon
September 2012 to June 2014
Abstract: This thesis examines the impacts that long-distance commuting operations have for workers in Yukon’s mining industry. The Canadian mining industry has transitioned from the traditional Taylorist operations of the twentieth century to lean-production systems of work organization. Among other changes, this leaner industry now employs small, highly trained workers in precarious occupations. Mines are also now operated in more remote areas, forcing workers to commute long distances and live for weeks on-site. Yukon is currently experiencing a resource boom, and is in the process of developing several new mines in the territory–mines which the local population hope to benefit from, but which will likely be designed around lean production systems. Within this context, this thesis explores the impacts of long-distance commuting through in-depth interviews with 12 workers in Yukon’s mining industry. The findings are organized into four major themes: 1) workplace culture, 2) safety in mining, 3) mobility and migration, and 4) home life for workers. These four themes represent what respondents felt were the most relevant impacts in terms of long-distance commuting.
Keywords: Taylorism, lean production, long-distance commuting, fly-in/fly-out (FIFO), drive-in/ drive-out (DIDO), precarious employment, workplace safety, labour migration, Yukon, mining industry, Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic (ReSDA).
Project leader: Chris Jones, Masters Candidate in the Department of Sociology at Lakehead University
Supervisor: Chris Southcott, Department of Sociology, Lakehead University
This research looks at the impact that rural mines in the Yukon have on their workers through long distance commuting operations (fly-in or drive-in). In February 2013 a small series of in depth interviews with workers across a variety of backgrounds in Whitehorse, including women, aboriginals, youth, labourers, trades people and managers. Some of the findings show a negative work environment for aboriginals, issues retaining and recruiting youth, aboriginals, and local workers, safety issues at mine sites and stress for workers who travel to Yukon from outside the region.
The main reason for carrying out this study is to better understand how Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) mining affects the development of a regional population centre. Specifically, this study will examine FIFO mining in the context of the Yukon’s regional centre, Whitehorse. The closest study done to date in terms of relevance is Petrov (2010), which models many of the effects from mine closures in the Yukon. Second, this study will offer a new perspective, one which focuses on the direct experiences of miners in Whitehorse. This new perspective could give researchers new insight into the recent trend of FIFO mining. Finally, this research could serve a purpose on theoretical grounds. It could potentially contribute to the body of literature on post-staple societies, as well as single-industry towns, and FIFO mining.
Questions to be asked are:
- What are the positive and negative effects of FIFO mining on the community of Whitehorse from the perspectives of FIFO miners?
- Are the perspectives of miners consistent with other studies of FIFO mining? If not, how do these perspectives differ?
- Do these results have any broader meaning for theories of single-industry towns or staples society?
This research is primarily exploratory in nature. The goal is to explore some of the effects of FIFO mining on a regional population centre from a new perspective—that of the miners who reside in Whitehorse. This means that new insights may be gained, new effects on community may be discovered, or old assumptions of effects may be questioned from the results of the research. Alternatively, the perspectives of miners may be consistent or agree with studies that have already examined FIFO mining. This research does not aim to describe the extent of FIFO mining’s effects on Whitehorse or the Yukon. This study will follow a qualitative design. Specifically, in-depth interviews will be conducted of miners in order to understand their perspectives on community development.
Timeline: September 2012 to June 2014
For more information contact:
Chris Jones (MA)
Department of Sociology
Department of Sociology
955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay ON P7B 5E1