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Stories From the Mine: Suncor Energy

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Big Machines, Big Family
An interview with Jennifer Ramsay, Heavy Equipment Operator, Suncor Energy.

Q: How long have you been in mining?

A: I came to Suncor six and a half years ago, moving to Fort McMurray from Kamloops, British Columbia. I’ve been in mining the entire time, operating everything from haul trucks to graders to shovels.

Q: Did you come to Fort McMurray with a two-to-three-year plan?

A: Actually, I came here with a six-month plan, and seven years later I am still here. I love it as I have a lot of family here. I’ve been able to do things in life much quicker than I thought I would, such as buying a car and a house.

Q: What’s it like driving a two-story house for work?

A: It’s pretty cool, but it also can be intimidating as it takes some getting used to. That said, everything is big, such as the roads and other equipment, so it’s all about the scale.

Q: What piece of equipment is the most fun to operate?

A: Definitely the trucks. Because you’re up high and moving you get to see and do so much. You get to interact with a lot of different equipment too.

Q: What kind of skills do you need for this job?

A: You need great decision making skills and the ability to focus on the task at hand. You also need to have confidence. When you start doubting yourself, that’s when trouble may arise. You also need drive.

Q: Drive… pun intended?

A: (Smiles) No pun intended.

Q: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve either dug up or seen at site?

A: When the dinosaur (Ankylosaur) was discovered out in the mine a couple of years ago, it was a pretty big deal. There was a lot of interest and it’s very cool to see something like that come from an oil sands operation.

Q: How important is safety while working?

A: It’s the biggest and most important thing. We live and breathe safety every moment of every day. Safety is also constantly reinforced through team gatherings, posters, ongoing training sessions and face-to-face meetings. It’s really great to see it being taken seriously.

Q: How is it like a family out working in mining?

A: Due to the nature of shift work, you end up on days off with the same people you work with, so you end up spending a lot of time with your co-workers outside of work too. You share stories and get along with everyone.

So it’s definitely like a family, just a really, really big one.

Photo captions: Scooping up for its next load at night – the mines don’t sleep in the oil sands.

A shovel is on the move to its new location in the Suncor Millennium Mine. Each is about as high as a five-story building.

A heavy hauler is capable of carrying up to 425 tonnes of oil sands per load. Each truck’s tire weighs more than 15,000 kilograms, which is the same weight as two average male African elephants.

Each truck takes between three and four shovel scoops to fill up.