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Remote Mining Camps 

 
Author: Jack Caldwell

Summary

This review looks at what goes into setting up and running a remote mining camp. Links to several consultants and contractors that specialize in building and maintaining camps are given.

INTRODUCTION

If you have not spent time at a remote mining camp, you may not have enjoyed the best mining life that mining has to offer. In a good remote mining camp, you are isolated, able to fully engage in work, and yet cosseted and pampered beyond anything that happens at home.

In this review, primarily by looking at the companies that provide the service, we look at what goes into setting up and running a remote mining camp; we look at the companies that will do it for you for a fee; and we fondly recall some of our stays in the better camps.

My objective in this piece is simply to set out the theory and practice of mining camps in sufficient detail to inform and entertain you. And maybe provide you with a basis for establishing a remote camp for your mine. And finally giving you a basis to evaluate your camp and decide why you liked or hated it and what suggestions you might make to management to improve things.

WHAT IS A REMOTE MINING CAMP?

By definition a remote mining camp must be remote. Thus I exclude those valid mining camps close to the local town or city. They are but boarding houses or single quarters, as we called them on South African mines.

A true remote mining camp is remote - far from any other human habitation and isolated to the extent that once there you are totally reliant on the camp for all you daily needs.

The remotest mining camp I enjoyed two summers in a row was the old cannery in Hawk Inlet, Admiralty Island, Alaska. We were looking to get Greens Creek going. I will always remember the bull-cook, Anita, who with her flaming red hair would go out fishing each morning and feed us freshly cooked beer-battered salmon and halibut at night. That plus copious beer, shooting at targets on the beach, arguing politics with rugged Alaskan miners, and dreaming in general, made for happy memories.

Incidentally, Anita was very proud of her title, Bull Cook. Here is a definition of a bull cook:

CAMP ATTENDANT, bull cook, choreman. Performs various duties about a mining, construction, or other camp, such as disposing of garbage, keeping camp area clean, sweeping and tidying sleeping quarters and making beds, carrying water for use at camp, and cutting firewood.

CONTRACTORS

You can plan, establish, and manage a remote camp yourself. But I advise against it. There is too much to learn, too many opportunities to make a mistake, and too many miners to make angry. Depending on where you are and where your remote mine is, contact one of the following and leave the details to them:

1984 Inc. in Vancouver focuses on Canada and mine exploration camps in remote places. They can organize most of the things that need to be done, including provision of staff to run the camp.

African Camp Management Services: As their name implies they are in Africa. Who can resist this evocative prose: "So, whether it's a diamond project in Angola, an exploration camp in the DRC, a fully fledged mining operation in Zambia or a construction camp in South Africa, efficient life support for the teams on site is absolutely critical."

Aden is French with operations in China, Vietnam, and throughout Asia, Middle East, and Africa. They employ 11,000 people and serve 250,000 meals a day-not all to miners of course. Some of the diners are in construction camps and working on oil & gas projects.

Australian Camp Services: Obviously Australia. You get their measure from the list of preferred suppliers that includes: Coopers brewery; Fosters brewery; Sa liquor distributors; and Holco meat. Now that sounds like a camp I want to stay in.

Chiulista Services, Inc. They are a success story. They are owned by Yulista Holding, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Calista Corporation. Since its founding in 1996, CSI has provided services to numerous government agencies, communities, and businesses. In 2000 they were awarded the Donlin Creek project contract, and in 2009 they were awarded a US Air Force contract at Gila Bend.

ESS Alaska is another Alaskan operation that operates in mining and elsewhere. This description from their site is enough to lure me to Alaska: "ESS Alaska operates a diverse array of services and establishments from restaurants, lounges and espresso operations, to in-flight services, school lunch programs, fishing and hunting lodges, remote site facilities, governmental agencies, mining operations, off-shore drilling platforms, land-based construction, and oilfield support. ESS is the market leader in providing remote foodservice and related support assistance to clients, wherever their location, no matter how extreme the environment may be. Services extend across North America, and include such facilities as drill camps, mining camps, construction camps, permanent facilities, pipeline camps, offshore, forestry camps oil & gas installations, military situations and correctional facilities." Well except for the correctional facilities.

ISS in Australia has provides remote camp services to BHP-Billiton, Western Power and Xstrata. But it is their early history that I find most fascinating:

1901

ISS is founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, under the name "Kjbenhavn Frederiksberg Nattevagt". Founded by a drapery wholesaler, the business was managed out of a living room and employed night watchmen to patrol the city's back streets. Eventually coming under the control of C. L. David, a lawyer and businessman, ISS expanded into cleaning services

1940's

The German occupation of Denmark proved to be one of the greatest challenges that ISS would ever face. In addition to the hardships World War 2, ISS also had its offices commandeered by German officers. However, the company was able to grow its messenger and window cleaning services

1950's

The private sector grew rapidly following World War 2, and the need for services gave ISS an opportunity to expand. Scandinavia, Switzerland and Germany each had ISS offices for the first time.

1970's

After adjusting to the world-wide problems of the 1973 oil crisis, ISS focused on incorporating the move for Women's Liberation.The company took numerous measures to meet this social change, and adjusted its social ethics appropriately

1980's and 1990's

Although ISS had become one of the world's largest service providers, the services industry had become increasingly competitive. ISS met this challenge by expansion and innovation, providing a far-reaching yet individually tailored range of services for an ever-growing list of global customers.

NANA is another of the Alaska native people corporations. They do much else beside remote camp management, but they do that too. Take a look at their list of services, it is interesting to see what 11,000 shareholders can achieve.

North Star Frontier Services: Working from Winnetka, Illinois and Capreol, Ontario they provide full-service remote work camp and catering to railroad, oil & gas, construction, mining, and forestry companies in North America. I liked their description of the food they provide: "We offer three, home-cooked meals each day - prepared with the best ingredients, using the latest safe food handling procedures and safeguards. Special diet, low carb, low fat and ethnic menu selections are also available."

Toll Remote Logistics (formerly PDL Toll), based in Australia, cater to any organisation operating in remote locations including mining and energy companies. The services they provide include camp planning and design, camp construction, project management, fleet management, waste management, and food services, as well as helicopter services.

RA International: They are headquartered in Dubai and have operations in Afghanistan and Africa. As you guessed they go beyond mere mining camps. The more remote and the more difficult the better. They list it all: "Our many capabilities include contingency logistics, housing, building maintenance & repairs, power generation, catering, water distribution systems, housekeeping, laundry, site security, warehousing/distribution, procurement, vehicle management & maintenance, and many, many more. To cut a long story short; whatever you need, however you need it; We'll deliver. Regardless." I like that, so proud & confident.

Remote Site Solutions, Africa: They are "the leading company for the provision of catering, camp design and construction, camp management and project management to the oil and gas industry on the East Coast of Africa." I cannot resist the far-away lure of their descriptions of some of their services:

CATERING - RSS has a mixed offering of catering solutions in the form of feeding schemes, banqueting, event management and camp catering

CAMP CONSTRUCTION - RSS will design, supply and build camps in accordance with each client's unique or specific requirements. Various camp options are offered and range from soft-walled tents to hard-walled permanent structures

CAMP MANAGEMENT - RSS offers services that have an overriding goal of creating a 'home away from home' environment for all camp residents. Services include all aspects of cleaning and maintenance and the administration of the Clients Human Resource function.

Sodexo is a big company, headquartered in the United Kingdom. They operate in over 40 countries and have more than 20,000 employees. They are pretty controlling, for hear what they say: "By integrating numerous services and subcontractors, we take care of the complete organisation of life on site, thereby relieving our clients from the logistic management and freeing them to concentrate on their core business. In addition, we ensure pleasant living and working conditions for site employees." Now that is control.

WHAT IS INVOLVED IN A REMOTE CAMP?

Toll Remote Logistics includes these components.
  • Accommodations
  • Catering and food services
  • Laundry
  • Cleaning services
  • Waste management
  • Health services
  • Emergency services
  • Warehousing and asset management
  • Vehicle fleet management
  • Helicopter services
  • Transportation
  • Fuel supply and distribution

WHAT IS THE LAW OF MINING CAMPS

Here is what the law requires for a mining camp in Ontario. Another good reason to employ somebody else to do it:
Construction of a camp requires a work permit if on Crown land. Camp health and hygiene is regulated by the Health Protection and Promotion Act administered by the Ministry of Health and community public health units. A Notice of Camp Opening is required for field camps serving five or more persons in unorganized territory. Local health units may also approve small-sized sewage systems for these camps depending on the number of people in the camp.

JOBS AND WORKING AT A REMOTE MINING CAMP

There appear to be many jobs at remote mining camps. Jobs range from the floor sweeper to the camp cook to the book keeper keeping track of the income at the truck shop. First take a look at InfoMine's own job board at www.careermine.com. You can type in the keywords "mining camp" and/or choose Auxiliary and Support Staff in the Category drop-down menu.

Next check out some of the other company websites, such as 1984 Inc.. They list many jobs in remote mining camps across Canada. They have jobs listed for health & safety assistants, camp cooks, registered nurses, and more. Here's one example of responsibilities.

Job Title: Occupational First Aid and Camp Cook

Key Responsibilities:
Kitchen Duties
  • Prepare the menu and all food requirements for site activity
  • Supervise cooks and other kitchen staff in the preparation, cooking and presentation of food when required
  • Assist in maintaining food production control and presentation
  • Ensure cleanliness is maintained
  • Check in with the Field Manager weekly
OFA Site Duties:
  • Attend to any and all first aid requirements
  • Conduct emergency medevac procedures
  • Orientation of all site residents to first aid and emergency procedures
  • Inventory and maintenance of first aid supplies
  • Maintain first aid room, equipment and supplies
  • Attendance at safety meetings/reporting of any Hazards
  • Weekly accident/incident/activities reporting to head office

The point is to take a look and find a job that suits you if you like to be far away yet in a human setting.

SOFTWARE

Orissa Software Inc sells CampWare, a fully integrated remote camp management code. I had difficulty determining exactly what is does, but they claim it has modules for registration, food service, invoicing, and system management. The latter is described as "allowing custom configuration of camp business rule management." Still not sure what that is, but if you really need them, call them to find out.

InnFinity Software Systems has software that appears to enable you to keep track of guests and payment.

ADJACENT COMMUNITIES

In this review I have worked on the basis that the remote mining camp is so remote that there are no nearby potentially affected communities. This is seldom the case. There is generally some existing community nearby. They may object to your new remote camp. They may want to come and work at the camp. They may also want to trade with your camp inhabitants.

These issues go well beyond what I seek to do in this article. But see Mining With Communities for a comprehensive overview of the problems and how they have been solved at some camps.

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