The Westmoreland Coal Company is using the upcoming Saskatchewan Mining Week as an opportunity to promote the impact that mining has on southeast Saskatchewan.
Kraig Wanner has been the general manager for Westmoreland Coal’s Estevan mines for a little more than a year, and the char and activated carbon plants for about eight months. He said that the company's mandate is to provide the lowest cost fuel to SaskPower, while generating employment for hundreds of people, and support for many different initiatives.
Between the two mines, a char plant and an activated carbon plant, Westmoreland has nearly 375 employees in the Estevan area, with 295 employees who are part of the United Mine Workers of America, and another 75 staff and management.
Safety plays an important role in the mines’ operations, Wanner said.
“I would hope that would be the case for any workforce in Saskatchewan, but especially at the mine site where we’re dealing with big equipment,” said Wanner. “All of our employees have to be focused on the task at hand in whatever their classification of job is at the mine site.”
They also encourage their employees to emphasize safety at home, he said, and to share the value of safety with their children.
January 10 marked an important milestone for the company, as it will be 10 years without a lost time accident at one of their job sites.
“We’re very proud of that,” said Wanner. “Of course, as guidelines change … we want to focus, of course, on zero, without any incidents on site.”
Westmoreland Coal is a big supporter of youth sports, Wanner said, regardless of whether it’s hockey, baseball, football or any other sport. Sherritt had donated money towards the Woodlawn Regional Park for playground equipment at the Boundary Dam beach site.
Employees have also been big supporters of the United Way Estevan through a payroll deduction program.
“I’m very proud of all our members, and the way they contribute every year,” said Wanner.
Now that Westmoreland is operating the mine – they recently purchased Prairie operations from Sherritt Coal – they’re going to remain supportive of the community, Wanner said, as Westmoreland wants to get their name out.
Wanner said the transition from Sherritt’s ownership to Westmoreland has been positive, and it’s been very well received.
“Westmoreland has coal right in their name, and that’s a breath of fresh air,” said Wanner. “That’s a very positive aspect, being owned by a coal company, and just focusing on being miners – talking the same language, and understanding that as a business going forward.”
Wanner became the general manager last May, and he has been employed by the mines since 2002. He was hired on as an equipment operator, then moved into a temporary foreman position.
“I continued on gaining knowledge from equipment operators, co-workers and managers throughout the years, and I’ve been able to continue progressing through general foreman of operations to mine manager to … general manager of the operations,” he said.
Saskatchewan Mining Week will run from May 25 to 31, and there will be events across the province that will celebrate the impact of mining on Saskatchewan.