‘Best restaurant north of 60’: How mining companies use gourmet food, suite-style rooms to attract new recruits – by Katrina Clarke (National Post – September 8, 2014)

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Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, lemon pepper-dusted sea bass and beef tenderloin marinated in garlic, ginger and scallions are just a few of the delicacies Executive Chef Allan Bedard serves up nightly.

But the customers delighting in his meals aren’t foodies in downtown Toronto. They are hungry miners, up to 500 of them, eager to devour a meal after working a 12-hour shift underground.

“We have people who come to site, they don’t know what a mango is… They try to eat them like apples,” says Mr. Bedard, boasting that he rapidly expands both the palates and the waistlines of miners.

Gone are the days of cheap hot dogs, wilted vegetables and Spam. As mining companies compete to recruit and retain top workers, miners at fly-in fly-out mine sites in northern Canada are increasingly getting treated to gourmet-style food. Food costs at some mine sites can reach upwards of $20 million annually.

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

The mine is a fly-in fly-out operation, with 50% of workers coming from Quebec and 30%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.

“It’s a key to maintaining stability within the workforce,” says Mr. Coffin. “If you don’t have a very good camp facility and food is not great, word spreads fast.”

Lionel Li, a 2014 UBC mining engineering grad, recently spent eight months working in a co-op placement at Musselwhite Mine in northern Ontario. He was separated from his fiancé, who was living in Vancouver, and ended up working over both Christmas and New Years.

“[Food] is definitely not a replacement by any means but it does help,” he says. “The pleasure of eating some decent food… makes up for it slightly, the fact you might be missing a holiday at home.”

Mr. Li, 29, says the fly-in fly-out lifestyle is best suited for single people. He knows some miners who travel every two weeks. It would be hard to be away from a young family for half the year, he says.

But as Canada’s mining sector grows, demand for mine workers in rural areas is also increasing. 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.

“They all say we have great food, really comfortable accommodations and all that,” says Oliver Carusone, 22, a fourth year student at the Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining at Queen’s University. “I feel that as there is more development in remote locations, the companies setting up these operations do make a point to make it seem more luxurious. So it’s not like you’re living in a tent or a trailer.”

For the rest of this article, click here: http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/09/07/best-restaurant-north-of-60-how-mining-companies-use-gourmet-food-suite-style-rooms-to-attract-new-recruits/