2014 Winners

Thunder Bay | Tradeswoman of the Year

Dani Drewek

Dani Drewek

Dani Drewek is determined to create some elbow room for herself in the mining industry. The energetic 22-year-old Thunder Bay native is out to prove her worth and show that gender poses no barrier to success in a male-dominated industry.

Two years into her employment at Goldcorp's Campbell Mine in Red Lake, Drewek holds the position of cage tender, the first female named to that physically demanding position.

"I love being underground. I think it's really neat." The job of cage tending means transporting miners and handling all the equipment and loose gear that is hauled down to the various levels of a mine by running forklifts, using slings, rigging and pure strength. There are also shaft inspections and some maintenance duties.

Handling the physical rigours of any job is something that comes naturally for Drewek, who stands five-foot, seven-inches tall.

"If I see a guy pick something up, I'll try and do more than he can."

Her greatest motivation is proving the naysayers wrong, that female workers have limitations.

"I like getting in there and getting my hands dirty, and really making a name for myself. When it comes to working with guys, I like them to say, holy crap how did you just do that? I guess it's a bit of an ego thing too."

Drewek was drawn to the industry while working as a labourer in aviation maintenance at Wasaya Airways. The company runs a regular charter to Goldcorp's Musselwhite Mine.

With no industry connections and in need of a career change, Drewek was inspired by a newspaper article about Barb Courte Elinesky, the trailblazing boss of two Thunder Bay exploration drilling companies.

Drewek messaged her through Facebook and the two began an instant friendship.

Within months, Drewek received her hard rock common core training in Sudbury and was off to Red Lake.

First assigned to the underground mechanical department in 2012, she applied for, and got, the cage tender position.

Working in a male environment has never intimidated the mechanically inclined Drewek, whose high school extracurriculars leaned toward welding and the automotive shop.

"You've got to have an attitude and be thick-skinned to be around there."

Some of her co-workers tend to be protective and their attitudes toward women working underground can run the gamut.

"You can tell people are a little leery of having you around. They don't know what you're capable of because they don't want to see you get hurt."

While it's not uncommon to see more women working underground operating heavy equipment, Drewek has plans to go "above and beyond that" with an aim to get into the actual mining part of the operation.

She's particularly eyeing the 85-pound jack leg drills that she regularly hefts into the cage.

"I don't know if there are any women that get the opportunity to do that. That's lot of physical work. I hope I keep pushing to prove myself for that."

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