Lynne Bouchard is the captain for St. Andrew Goldfields mine rescue team that will be in Timmins this Thursday and Friday for the Ontario mine rescue competition. Bouchard is the first woman to ever captain a mine rescue team into a provincials.
TIMMINS – It wasn’t until the wives of a competing mine rescue team gathered around Lynne Bouchard to shake her hand that the significance of her achievement really sunk in.
Bouchard, who works for St. Andrew Goldfields in Black River-Matheson, is the first female captain to lead a mine rescue team to the provincials.
The provincial competition, which kicks off Thursday, is being held this year at the Dome Mine in Timmins.
“It really sunk in when all the wives of the Kidd Creek team lined up to shake my hand and tell me how it was great and an inspiration to see a female step up to the plate like that,” the 26-year-old recalled from the district championships held in Timmins last month. “It was a very heart-felt moment.”
Bouchard will be leading St. Andrew Goldfields mine rescue team against Kidd Operations (Glencore) and the five other district teams competing in the provincials.
St. Andrew is representing the Kirkland Lake district while the Kidd team is representing Timmins.
Breaking new ground for women in mine rescue was never Bouchard’s intention. She simply saw it as an extracurricular activity that she wanted to get involved with through her work.
Bouchard works in the engineering department at St. Andrew Goldfields as a long-hole and mine design planner and has been a member of the mine rescue team for three years — nearly the same length of time she has been with the company.
“I like the challenge, I like to get involved as much as I can, and it also gives you an ‘in’ to meet from other groups like the maintenance department or the underground department. They are not people who you might not normally co-ordinate with … Plus being in a situation to help myself and being able to help others, it was just a no-brainer for me.”
St. Andrew Goldfields has approximately 30 personnel on site who are involved with mine rescue. The six-member mine rescue team from Goldfields competing in the provincials is comprised entirely of individual unit captains, including Bouchard.
Charlie Burton, the chief judge with Workplace Safety North who designed the scenario which the mine rescue teams will be facing at the provincials this week, has been involved in mining for 40 years.
“We’ve had women competing in the provincials dating back to 1980,” he said. “Right now, we have 12 active females out of 850 volunteers mine rescue throughout the province. We’ve had female team captains before but never one to lead a team in the provincials.”
Bouchard believes as more women are seen playing integral roles in mining, employers will be more comfortable hiring them in what is traditionally a male-dominated profession.
“The women in the industry work very hard because they don’t want to give the men any reason to doubt them,” said Bouchard.
Nonetheless, from time to time, she has encountered sceptics along the way.
“The old school fellows are the ones that are most likely to give you a hard time,” Bouchard said. “My first student job at Vale (in Sudbury, five years ago), I was told a few times I didn’t belong there, just for the simple reason that I was a woman. Even on this site, you get a few men who do resist the presence of women.
“But if you work hard enough, you’ll be able to change just about anybody’s mind and I know I have done that with a few people. You just need to have that drive to not let anything bother you and just do what you got to do, and work hard and you’ll have just about anybody convinced.”