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For Diane Haché, women are the backbone of communities and families, so ensuring that those less fortunate can feel hopeful about the future is worth almost any effort.

That is why the retired equipment operator from Diavik Diamond Mine spent several months separating copper wire from electrical cables decommissioned from the mine. Upon separating the copper, she was able to to sell the metal to a bidder in Vancouver to raise $94,000 for the Yellowknife Women’s Society’s shelter.

Diane Haché, a retired equipment operator at Diavik, displays copper that she stripped from electrical cables. Sales of the separated metal raised $94,000 for the Yellowknife Women’s Society’s shelter.
photo courtesy of Amanda Annand

Using a machine to separate up to seven layers of insulation and other material in the wire to get to the copper, Haché and her supporters worked away at the Arctic West Transport lot on Eagle Drive in Kam Lake between August 2019 and March 2020.

The process, she admitted, was gruelling.

“It took me a long time to get through it because it was a learning process,” Haché said. “It was hard at times, I admit – really hard physically. I would come home at night flat out not knowing what was in store.”

The copper wire some of which is up to an inch-and-a-half thick – is generally used for operations in underground mines. Typically the company salvages its electrical wire and sells it as is to a bidder seeking the metal. The money raised is then directed to charities.

In this case, Haché volunteered to take on the job to support the women’s society.

“A lot of people at the time said, ‘Diane, you have no idea whatsoever what you are going into,’ and they were really right,” she said. “But for me that was just a matter of opinion. It was the human thing to do and even though it was time consuming, I had the time. It did take me a long time until I could improve my technique.”

Diavik shipped two 40-foot sea cans and one 20-foot sea can filled with the wire to Yellowknife via the winter road last year. 

Monique Robitaille, left, Neesha Rao, executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society Diane Haché and Michel Tremblay. They stand at the work station on the Arctic West Transport site on Eagle Drive, where they separated copper from electrical cable, in August. 
photo courtesy of Amanda Annand

Haché estimates that there was 45,000-50,000 lbs of electrical wire in each of the larger sea cans and 25,000 lbs in the smaller one.

Second batch

Since June, Hache said she has been working on two more large containers of copper wire that she is still in the process of completing.

She intends to provide future funds from that batch to the same charity, she said.

“If I can make the difference in the lives of those unfortunate women and give them some some hope for a better tomorrow, I will do what I can to help make them a little bit more comfortable.” she said. “Money is the bottom line and it’s still not much, I know. They need so much more.

“I’m from the old school. I strongly believe that women are the backbone of the family. They have stood up to a lot of a lot of things (in their lives) and I think those women need some help to make it possible that there’s always hope.”

Diane Haché holds an electrical cable at the Arctic West Transport lot in Kam Lake in August.
photo courtesy of Amanda Annand

Amanda Annand, a communities adviser with Diavik in Yellowknife, is involved in seeing that sponsorship and donations go those most in need.

She said Haché devoting personal time to separate the metal and finding buyers for the copper was an extraordinary effort for one person to take on.

“In the past, we’ve donated the copper on strips to other groups that want to strip it themselves and sell it to fundraise money,” she said. “I think that’s happened maybe once or twice in the past. I think Diane, with her effort and knowledge, really increased the actual dollar value of that unstripped copper.

“That’s a huge piece of the of the puzzle, I think, in terms of how a bunch of scrap turned into $94,000 for the women shelter.”

She added that in an average year, a normal operating budget for sponsorship and donations is about $185,000.

“So $94,000 is a super significant contribution,” she added.

Many partners involved

Haché said she was thankful for various individuals and partnering organizations who made various types of contributions to make the project possible. Among the contributors included Jay Westguard, who provided the use of the Arctic West transport yard, electricity, loader and shipping at the Arctic West transports

Others included Peter Howling of Kavanaugh who provided a dumpster and waste pick up, Legge’s Construction that provided a telehandler.

Haché also thanked KBL Environmental Ltd. that provided 35 waste recovery bags to store the copper wires when she was done, and Larry Wheaton and Kirk Miszaros from RTL Enterprise who assisted in digging out cables and reloading them into a container. 

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Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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