Raising a family and building a career in the Cariboo has been a perfect fit for Ben Pierce.
The 41-year-old husband, father of two and general manager of Gibraltar Mine was born and raised in Merritt, arriving in Williams Lake in July of 2008 for work.
Growing up on a farm in Merritt, Pierce spent his teenage years working with his dad, Bill, a logging contractor who ran a business with his mom, Mischelle.
“I was in the bush with him, running a power saw, helicopter logging and all kinds of fun things. We were an outdoors family. With my two brothers who are younger, in addition to working with my dad, we irrigated the hay field, changed pipes, hayed the fields and then sold the hay.”
Sports also played a major role in Pierce’s upbringing. He played minor hockey, and high school rugby, in Merritt.
“We always had outdoor rinks at the house,” he said, noting he was fortunate enough to continue his hockey career post graduation.
Pierce played a season of junior B hockey with the Revelstoke Grizzlies, then went on to play for the junior A Merritt Centennials, before being afforded a scholarship to Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, Mass. to pursue an environmental engineering degree.
It was also growing up in Merritt where he met his wife, Liselle, who, for the past eight years has been an educational assistant at Mountview elementary in Williams Lake. In his first year of university in 2001, Pierce’s daughter, Gabrielle, was born. His son, Boston, was born in 2005.
Juggling academics, sports and a young family was a challenge, but Pierce said he and Liselle somehow made it work.
“I left university in Boston before I’d graduated but did receive a diploma of sorts from there, then transferred back to the University of British Columbia (UBC),” he said, noting it was there he finished a geological engineering degree in 2006, also getting married that same year, before moving the family to Prince George.
When Pierce took a job as a young engineer in training at Gibraltar Mine in July of 2008, the rest of the family followed in September so the kids could start school that same year in Williams Lake.
“When I was going to school, mining wasn’t something I’d thought of, really, as a career aspiration,” he said. “I knew I wanted to work in the environmental and industrial fields, but my exposure during my schooling to some of the mines did help me understand better what it would be like working at a mine.”
Pierce, who has now been with the company for the past 13 years, has held many positions over the years at Gibraltar Mine, working his way up the proverbial ladder as superintendent of engineering, superintendent of environment and assistant general manager, to name a few of the jobs he’s done.
“I get to work with some very smart and passionate people … my role now is much less technical than it was before and more managing, long-term strategies, things like that,” he said. “We’ve got 700 employees here so there’s always something to occupy your time with.”
He noted Gibraltar has been a great place to work over the years.
“When we hire new people, I always try to introduce myself, talk about my career and what I say is that it’s the people that work here who are the reason why I think so many folks here have stayed and continued to work at Gibraltar. It’s all good people, it’s passionate people and it’s people who care about their jobs and their families, and that makes it easy to come to work every day.”
Outside of work, Pierce said one of the most enjoyable aspects of his life for the past 10 years has been being a volunteer coach in the community.
Pierce has coached Gabrielle and Boston in hockey through both the house and rep levels — most recently as the coach of the Williams Lake Midget Tier 2 Timberwolves where his son, Boston, is a player — as well as coaching soccer and baseball in Williams Lake.
“It’s so refreshing,” he said. “It takes you out and gives you that opportunity to recharge from your day-to-day stresses. When you go to the soccer field, or arena, or ball diamond you get to see kids having fun and that’s a pretty powerful and grounding experience. Being able to be a part of youths’ lives and helping them learn life lessons and goals, and all those things, has been one of the things, looking back, I’m pretty happy I could be a part of.”
When he’s not coaching or working, Pierce said the family loves to be outdoors.
“We love fishing, camping, boating and we’re into hunting, but really the outdoors is one of the main reasons we love the Cariboo because there’s so much to do,” he said.
“You can get away from the crowds, it’s not busy. We just love being outside, and it’s a big part of the reason we love Williams Lake.”