As the chartered bus winds its way up the 17-km road to Taseko’s Gibraltar Mine in the Cariboo region of B.C., most of the passengers on board are employees and their partners. They and hundreds of other employees have been invited to celebrate the grand opening of the mine’s expansion, completed earlier this year.
Taseko’s CEO will later tell the crowd the mine has gone from 10 employees in 2006 to almost 700 today. With the expansion production has increased from 30,000 tons to 80,000 tons a day.
When the mine comes into view, the employees on the bus joke about the work place and some of the fun they have with different fellow workers.
“Every crew has its characters,” equipment operator Marlin Froese pipes up.
While employees, managers, Taseko’s upper management and board members, politicians and other big players in the mining world arrive on site they are directed to the brand new truck maintenance shop where a big party is underway.
Blue and white balloon arches, a huge mine truck for a backdrop and music wafting from a Vancouver-based production crew greet guests.
Vice-president and mine manager Dave Roleau, clad in a cowboy hat, black suit jacket and jeans, opens the formal speeches.
“The people gathered in this room are responsible for the success of Taseko,” Roleau says.
Top of the list, he adds, are mine site employees. His comment sparks cheers and applause.
Jackson Davies of The Beachcombers fame, plays the role of a new mine employee. Mill foreman Rod Foster plays the guitar and sings when lunch is being served.
Also in attendance are Taseko’s Japanese partners who have travelled from Japan for the celebration.
Making her tallest entrance to date, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett arrives standing on the deck of a haul truck that pulls up beside one of the shop’s truck bays.
From her 15-foot vantage point, dressed in orange coveralls, a hard hat and safety glasses, Barnett addresses the crowd.
“Hi, what’s going on here doesn’t anybody work anymore?” she chides.
Referencing May’s provincial election, Barnett says the people elected a government that says “yes” to jobs and a mine called Prosperity.
“Look what we have here, a company that cares about the Cariboo, about families and about jobs,” she says of Taseko.
“Today is about celebrating Gibraltar,” Barnett challenges. “We need to work together to get New Prosperity opened in the future.”
Hallbauer, a mining engineer by trade, says he was reminded of a conversation some mining people had with his mining engieer father almost 50 years ago.
“My father said the Gibraltar deposit would become one of the great mines in Canada,” Hallbauer recalls. “It turns out he was right.”
Less than 10 years later Gibraltar was built and today is looking to operate for another 40 years, he says.