Macken­zie part of first all-fe­male mine res­cue team

Team wins praise dur­ing re­cent in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion

The Casket - - Sports - RICHARD MACKEN­ZIE richard­mac@the­cas­ket.ca Re­spect earned

Heather Macken­zie is a trail­blazer.

An in­stru­men­ta­tion tech­ni­cian who lives in Yel­lowknife, North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, but has deep fam­ily con­nec­tions to Mor­ris­town, Antigo­nish County (her fa­ther is Beaton Macken­zie from the com­mu­nity), Macken­zie is an in­te­gral part of the first all-fe­male mine res­cue team, which re­cently com­peted in an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in Rus­sia.

Macken­zie, who works for Di­avik Di­a­mond Mine in the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, noted she was com­pet­ing for a team rep­re­sent­ing her com­pany, at the western na­tion­als in Fernie, B.C. last year, when she was ap­proached by one of the judges.

“I was the only fe­male un­der­ground com­peti­tor and the judge, who was do­ing the un­der­ground sce­nario, she came up to me after our event, after we com­pleted it, and she said she wanted to talk to me later,” Macken­zie said, in an in­ter­view with the Cas­ket Oct. 17.

“I saw her at the ban­quet and I was asked if I would be in­ter­ested in par­tic­i­pat­ing in an allfe­male mine res­cue team. I was the first true re­cruit we had for this team and, from that, with just a lit­tle bit of word of mouth re­gard­ing dif­fer­ent women we heard were in mine res­cue, from across Canada, we put to­gether a team.”

The team has been nick­named Di­a­monds in the Rough and the judge Macken­zie re­ferred to is team co-founder Kari Len­tow­icz, who has a Mas­ter’s in emer­gency re­sponse co­or­di­na­tion.

Macken­zie noted the dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sions the women come from with con­nec­tions to min­ing, such as an un­der­ground bolter and a ra­di­a­tion of­fi­cer, to one who deals with min­ing safety equip­ment and an­other who is a reg­is­tered nurse.

In Rus­sia — Eka­ter­in­burg, a city lo­cated near the Ural Moun­tains — the team fin­ished 15th over­all out of 25 teams, in­clud­ing a fifth place fin­ish in the un­der­ground search event, and picked up a cou­ple of awards.

“It went ex­cep­tion­ally well,” Macken­zie said of the com­pe­ti­tion.

“We won the Peo­ple’s Choice top team and also a spe­cial award in com­mem­o­ra­tion of our in­flu­ence on mine res­cue and us be­ing the first all-fe­male team.”

She added the results were es­pe­cially pleas­ing since their team only had four days of prac­tice be­fore head­ing to Rus­sia.

“It’s the top two teams from the coun­tries, which par­tic­i­pate, at the in­ter­na­tion­als,” she said of the event, of­fi­cially ti­tled the World­wide Mines Res­cue Com­pe­ti­tion.

“And with a lot of th­ese coun­tries, their teams are mili­tia and are full-time mine res­cuers. For us, it’s all vol­un­teer, and we had only met for 10 days the month prior to com­pet­ing [in Saska­toon] and had only spent four days, with the fi­nal team cho­sen, to prac­tice. So our fifth time ever do­ing a sce­nario was the in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.”

Macken­zie said the team gar­nered a lot of re­spect from their fel­low com­peti­tors, in­clud­ing from coun­tries where it’s ac­tu­ally il­le­gal for women to even work un­der­ground.

“A lot of the coun­tries that we com­peted against; Zam­bia, China, Kaza­khstan, Poland, Rus­sia, Ukraine, Tur­key, Slo­vakia, it’s il­le­gal for women to work un­der­ground so there are no women who do mine res­cue,” she said, not­ing it was “eye-open­ing” for th­ese men to see the all-fe­male team from Canada.

“We had some of the other com­peti­tors come up to us and say how they were go­ing home and were go­ing to tell their daugh­ters they met women who do what they do, and do it very well,” Macken­zie, who cap­tained the Di­a­monds in the Rough in the un­der­ground and fire­fight­ing events at the in­ter­na­tion­als, said.

“It was re­ally great to have that re­cep­tion and end the com­pe­ti­tion on such a high note, hav­ing re­ceived that re­spect from our col­leagues.”

She talked about the pre­vi­ous in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, in 2016 in Sud­bury, On­tario, and fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion at that time.

“Three per cent of com­peti­tors [in Sud­bury] were fe­male; with our team and two women from Columbia, in Rus­sia, we doubled those num­bers,” she said, not­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion is held bi-an­nu­ally and, in the op­po­site years, par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries holds their na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

Macken­zie talked about hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to meet and join with other women across Canada who share her pas­sion for mine res­cue.

“There re­ally aren’t many in my area, so it was great that we could come to­gether to prove that not only can we com­pete at an in­ter­na­tional level, but also gain the re­spect of the com­peti­tors we are up against,” she said.

Non-profit group

Di­a­monds in the Rough has reg­is­tered as a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion for the pur­pose of not only rais­ing funds to help them com­pete, but to pro­mote jobs in their fields which have been seen as tra­di­tional male roles.

“We would like to put on train­ing cour­ses in the fu­ture with women who are in mine res­cue and with young women through­out Canada to pro­mote th­ese tra­di­tional male dom­i­nant roles,” Macken­zie said.

“Just ap­proach­ing dif­fer­ent groups, like the Girl Guides, go­ing in and talk­ing to them about what we do and the pos­si­bil­i­ties it can open up.”

Brandy Bloxom.

The first all-women mine res­cue team – the Di­a­monds in the Rough.

Brandy Bloxom

Heather Macken­zie, who has fam­ily con­nec­tions to Mor­ris­town, Antigo­nish County, was the first re­cruit for the first ever all-fe­male mine res­cue team – the Di­a­monds in the Rough. The team com­peted at the World­wide Mines Res­cue Com­pe­ti­tion, in Rus­sia, this past Septem­ber.

Brandy Bloxom

The Di­a­monds in the Rough in a mine res­cue com­pe­ti­tion.

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