Digging Deep: Taryn Roske Cuts Through Ore and Stereotypes in Mining
"I fight hard every day to prove my worth, and that I do deserve to be in this position. I work really hard and do my best. As long as my supervisor is happy with what I'm doing, then I'm okay with where I'm at," Taryn Roske explains. She is from La Ronge, Saskatchewan where she was born and raised and she now works at Cigar Lake Mine as the first female Jet Bore Systems Operator. Because of that distinction, sometimes she comes up against people who are resistant to a woman doing the work that she does, but she doesn’t let that stop her from doing what she loves.
Roske runs the drill that extracts the ore from underground. The jet bore system is basically a big pressure washer that cuts through the ore and turns it into a slurry before it is pumped into the milling process. Before she operated Cigar Lake’s jet bore system, she worked at the mine for three years as a radiation technician, working in and around the drills and learning from her workers what their jobs were like and what they did.
One of the supervisors encouraged her to apply for the role the next time it was posted, explaining that he thought she would be really good at it. She applied and eventually got the job. The training was hands-on learning, which was helpful because Roske struggled a lot with book learning in school.
“My whole life is like trying to break those stereotypes about not only women, but also Indigenous people. I feel like I'm breaking boundaries and proving that we are capable of doing these things and that we are resilient and can do anything that we set our minds to.”
A year later, she still finds the job rewarding because it's something she’s worked really hard to do. She went to school to be a geological technician, which is a 48 week course. Because of a recession, when she finished school in 2010, there weren't any jobs available but she was given the opportunity to cover a maternity leave as a radiation technician at Rabbit Lake and got her foot in the door. Roske stayed there for nine years and had other opportunities, like being an underground surveyor and later an environmental technician at Key Lake Mine.
“I'm really hoping that I encourage younger generations to follow in my footsteps and even go above and beyond what I'm doing.”
Her advice for Indigenous students thinking of pursuing a career in mining, is “absolutely do it, it is a super rewarding job in the sense that I don't like doing jobs where I don't see something at the finish line. You can see the process happening finish to start and you feel like you're accomplishing something.”
For all the benefits, Roske acknowledges there are also challenges. “It can be really tough at times with my schedule, two weeks in two weeks out. I do miss a lot of family functions. I think I've only had three Christmases at home in the last 12 years but I also don't have kids so it's not as tough for me. But it is something that people do struggle with,” she admits.
The key to getting through rotations far from home: relationships. “It is important to try to make a sense of community while you're out there, then it doesn't feel as lonely while you are up there. It's a little bit easier nowadays, because we have such great technology so you can still FaceTime with your kids, your family, whatever. If you have a good supervisor, they're pretty understanding, like if you do need to go home, they'll figure out ways to get you back home,” she explains.
Roske also points to mindset and having thick skin. “We all have our own personalities, and not everyone is going to like you. You have to be okay with that. You can't try to be everybody's best friend. You just have to love who you are and know that you're a good person and just do your job. Forget about what other people are saying about you,” she advises.
If she could give advice to her younger self she would say, “Learn to love yourself no matter what. You're going to be your number one supporter in everything that you do. Having that confidence to tell yourself that you are capable of doing these things is so important.” Roske sees confidence as the antidote to people who don’t want you to succeed.
To take care of her mental health, the company she works for provides therapists for when staff need them who are accessible online all the time. She also has strong friendships with people at work who understand what she’s going through and validate her feelings when she needs to vent. Her parents and brother have also been very supportive.
Looking to the future, she plans to keep doing what she’s doing for another five years before trying to move into a supervisory position. If not, she’s happy doing what she’s doing, so long as she’s physically able to keep up. She’s inspired to keep going by other women, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who have come before her.
She admires their efforts breaking down barriers, standing up for themselves, their rights and what they believe in. “I really strive to be like that for the future generation and hope that I can be a positive role model for the up and coming people who want to get into these kinds of roles or even different roles,” she muses.
Cutting through stereotypes while she cuts through ore, Roske is demonstrating the resilience, versatility and strength of her people. With thick skin and an open heart, she’s building relationships and a future for herself. From geological technician training to being the first female Jet Bore Systems Operator, Taryn Roske is setting a solid foundation for Indigenous women in mining and trades.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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