Today was a perfect summer day in Vancouver; although it is still officially winter. I slept late in the sun streaming through the bedroom windows. I rode my bicycle to and from work in the warmth of the sun, although it was a trifle cold coming home as, short of breath, I walked the hills that become steeper every year.
I did no work of note: answer emails, chat with colleagues, edit an upcoming EduMine course presentation. Nothing of intellectual challenge or worth. Just what you would do on a lazy, sunny day.
I am lucky; for what does it matter if I work or do not work? Nobody cares for my opinion, except when I tell the truth—when they get bent out of shape. The bank manager has more of my money invested than I can touch—all I need to do is get him to support me in idleness. I have decided to stop smoking–except my pipe–for that will save me money and make me better able to ride my bike this summer, which I intend to do until I am lean & mean like those old farts at Granville Island who are far older, skinnier, and fitter than me.
Yet my heart today could not shake off a conversation I had with a young engineer let go last week as his company is contracting as commodity prices fall. He has three children, has just bought a new house, and is now without a job.
He has been my client. I have done work for him. He is a good engineer: he asks the right questions; he demands the appropriate answers; he uses my advice prudently; he advances the cause of his employer. It was a pleasure and an honor to work for him. I learnt and he learnt and we advance the state-of-the-art. Yet he is laid off. My heart bleeds for him, for I have been in this situation.
In 1983 the mining industry collapsed. As manager SRK Vancouver, I laid off twenty, including myself and Andy Robertson. It is a long story how we survived; but we did.
In the mid 1990s, I was told to leave a site because I challenged the incumbent privileges. The project eventually did what I told them was the thing to do. But only after firing me and two others.
I lost my drive some ten years ago when my then-wife of 34 years eloped with a very rich man (five cars, a private plane, monthly trips to Vegas, and lodges in Africa). I lost my drive and care to help clients. So I “retired” and spent years riding my bike, watching opera, and writing EduMine courses.
The point is that I have “lost” my job at least three times. It happens in life and in mining, no less than in other walks of life. I have survived: brushed off the dust, stood up, and moved on. Yet still my heart bleeds for the young man with three children, a new house, and no job. He is a good engineer and will, I trust, survive. But what anguish and struggle until then.
Me and the young engineer I write of are but a very few examples of many more who are affected by the ups and downs of mining. Our stories are never told as individuals. We are but statistics for journalists. Yet our pain and struggle is real and wrenching. So pause if you can to help one of those laid of in the mass waves of layoffs in the current mining downturn.