It wasn’t Darren Quimby’s first time operating a drill. A 30-year veteran miner, he’s worked many jack leg drills in his days underground.
Quimby’s coworker at Kensington Mine, fifth generation miner Dave “Sully” Sullivan, has been in the industry even longer. Together, the two have 69 years mining experience. They put that to good use Saturday at the men’s jack leg drilling competition at Gold Rush Days, placing third in the doubles category.
“What’s the key? Don’t try this at home,” Quimby said.
Quimby won the single men’s contest, but he wouldn’t have a chance to compete in anything else that day. The pair had to catch a bus to work. Such is the hardworking life of a miner.
“Not today, we gotta go to work. Catching the bus right now,” Quimby said.
Gold Rush Days, the annual celebration of Juneau’s mining and logging industry, took place over the weekend. Miners, loggers and their families art barbecue, competed in logging and mining skills events and chatted with local politicians running for office.
Logging isn’t a big part of Juneau’s economy. But mining still is. Southeast’s mining industry employs 800 people. It’s supported mostly by Juneau’s two mines, Kensington Mine, north of Berners Bay, and Greens Creek, on Admiralty Island.
The two-day event, with mining contests on Saturday and logging contests Sunday, is mostly just a chance for the mining and logging communities to get together. But Gold Rush Days also puts a public face on the mining industry which, so far from town, can seem removed from the day-to-day life of the capital city.
Eddie Petrie, who won the men’s hand mucking contest, a speed shoveling competition, said the mining and logging communities in Juneau are a “small world.” Petrie, dressed in a high-visibility work jacket and a baseball cap, said he loves the event.
“It brings everybody together. The community, both the mines, people from around Southeast. It’s all friendly competition. Everybody is cheering each other on. It’s just a fun day,” Petrie said.
Kirstie Bakk, visiting Juneau for Gold Rush Days, works in public relations for Couer Alaska, Kensington Mine’s parent company. Bakk participated in the women’s hand mucking event Saturday. Competitors push a mine cart a few feet to a pile of gravel, then fill it up and push it back. Bakk has experience. Before taking her current position, she spent four summers hand mucking at a Couer operation in South Dakota.
She did the event in 1 minute, 9 seconds. She was hoping for a faster time, but tipped the cart over during a zealous start to her run. The key to hand mucking success?
“Staying on top of the pile, that definitely helps. Then just catching a rhythm. Just getting in a flow,” she said.
Bakk said it’s not often that the mining industry gets to be in the public eye. Dealing with misconceptions about what miners do is part of her job.
“I think it gives an opportunity for Couer Alaska and Hecla (Greens Creek’s parent company) as well to kind of put themselves in the public eye, to educate people. Hand mucking is kind of an older technique, but the jack legging, that’s tried and true. And it’s great people. When it comes down to it, the people are key,” Bakk said.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.