Northern economy feeling the effects of Saskatchewan wildfires – by Doug Lett (Global News – July 8, 2015)

SASKATOON – While a lot of attention has been focused on the battle against raging wildfires in northern Saskatchewan, it’s not the only challenge. The northern economy is also taking a hit.

Thousands of jobs in the north depend on mining or tourism.

“It’s disruptive at the very least,” said Neil McMillan, who is president of the Saskatchewan Mining Association.

“All of the mines and mills in the north are still operating, but it’s tenuous, for a number of reasons,” said McMillan, who for many years ran Claude Resources, which operates the Seabee gold mine in northern Saskatchewan.

He said the challenges include getting enough supplies to keep the mines and mills going.

“The transportation of necessary goods – diesel fuel, propane, and other things used in the mining and milling operations – there’s been lots of times they’ve been disrupted,” said McMillan. “I know they’ve done a couple of convoys of supplies to keep the operations running.”

And the workforce for the northern mines often lives in the north. Some have had to leave to help with evacuations, or to help protect their communities.

“All of the companies are bending over backwards to accommodate employees who’ve had to go home to help with an evacuation, or their properties. It’s disruptive, but it enables everybody to get on the same page with respect to their objectives – make sure everything that can be done is being done,” he said, adding the heavy smoke has also disrupted flights bringing employees to the mines to work.

However, McMillan says the mining companies are going out of their way to help. For example, one trucked a diesel generator into a northern community threatened by fire, because the power lines were down.

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