Terry Malaryk thoroughly enjoyed his 43-year career working at the coal mines in the Estevan area.
In fact, he enjoyed it so much that he’s gone back to work for the mines as a consultant.
Malaryk retired from the mines on Dec. 31, 2018. And after taking a few months off of work, he agreed to return in the consultant’s role, with Wednesday being his first day back on the job.
The mines proved to be the perfect fit for Malaryk. After graduating from the Estevan Comprehensive School when he was 17, Malaryk bounced around to a few different jobs. He worked mainly in construction, and he helped out with his dad’s farm near Hitchcock.
It was a desire to try something different that steered him towards the mines. It didn’t hurt that they paid very well.
“I worked for three months, and then I was laid off for about a week. And then I got back to work, and ended up running those draglines,” said Malaryk, who was 22 years old when he became a dragline operator.
There would be a bidding process for a vacant position at the mine, whether it be a truck driver or a dragline oiler or operator. They posted the dragline operator role on the company bulletin board, and anybody who was interested could apply. Seniority is a big factor in the decision.
When Malaryk was laid off after three months, they had a vacancy for a dragline oiler, so they called him a few days after being laid off, because nobody wanted to go in that position. He was brought back as an oiler.
A requirement of the job was to learn how to operate the dragline, so that work wouldn’t be interrupted when the regular operator took a lunch break.
Malaryk pounced at the opportunity to be a dragline operator after one of the operators retired, and he was hired.
“One of my favourite sayings was that working at the mines gives me the opportunity to play with the biggest toys in the sandbox, and the biggest sandbox in the province,” said Malaryk.
He entered the apprenticeship program in 1980, four years after starting at the mines, and eventually earned his journeyman ticket in industrial mechanics. He secured his ticket for the hydraulic crane in 1989.
“At the end of 1991, I was approached by management to become a supervisor. I initially turned it down, because I was unsure if that’s what I wanted to do, but then I talked to some of the older employees there, and they said go for it, and so I did,” said Malaryk.
He worked as an operations supervisor for about 3 1/2 years, and then he started supervising dragline maintenance and the welding shop. It was a role he had until 2015, when he moved into the planning department to plan and be the project manager for some of the large maintenance projects on the draglines.
Malaryk said he always tried to be a good mentor to the young people at the mines, which is why he believes he was asked to return to the mines and help out a young engineer who has taken on a supervisory role.
“They have a large project … starting … and they asked me to come back as a consultant, and I opted to do that for the summer,” said Malaryk.
But it won’t be a full-time gig, as he will have a week at work followed by a week off, ensuring he will get to enjoy the bulk of his first summer as a retired miner.
“I can also pick and choose (my schedule) if I have some community service that I’m involved in,” said Malaryk. “I already told them that it would take priority.”
Malaryk said he enjoyed the people he worked with, and it’s the people who represent a big reason why he’s returning.
“You build relationships with the people at the worksite. You see them there, and that’s basically the only place you ever see them is at the job site, out at the mine. And … when you retire, that’s what I started to miss were the relationships.”
When you do something for 43 years, it becomes ingrained in you, he said. Some of his habits still remain; he still can’t sleep past 7 a.m. because he’s still used to getting up at 6 a.m. for work.
Malaryk decided the end of last year was the opportune time to retire. He’s 63 years old and he wants to spend more time with his family.
“I just wanted to experience some new things,” said Malaryk.
He’s also very involved in the community. A Torquay resident, Malaryk has been on the village council for a few terms. He’s also the vice-chair of the Mainprize Regional Park Board and he recently joined the St. Joseph’s Hospital board.
He’s also involved with the South Central Transportation Planning Committee that is tasked with the operation of highways in that part of the province.
Malaryk is looking forward to being more involved with those causes.
The community involvement continues a trend from throughout his mining career. In 1980, he was elected to the executive of the United Mine Workers of America Local 7606, and served as the vice-president until 1986 when he resigned for personal reasons. He also served as the sub co-chairman of the Bienfait mine for the union’s safety committee.
But mining was always there for him. And now he’s looking forward to being back at the mines.