Profile: Travis Boneleye takes drilling career in new direction

October 5, 2020 in People
Explorer: Fall 2020

Working in an office is very different than what newly elected Black Lake councillor, Travis Boneleye, is used to. “I’ve been in drilling since 2002, starting with Boart Longyear and then working with Team Drilling,” says Travis. “Being in an office is very different. I’m used to being active, working hard, waking up at 4am for work. I do kinda like working in an office, except I’ve been slim all my life and I’m starting to get a bigger stomach already!”

Travis started his career with drilling as a driller helper and a nipper, hauling equipment. He began working with Team Drilling in 2010 as a driller helper and worked his way up to a driller. “While I was with Team Drilling, I worked at Cigar Lake. I really enjoyed it there because they provided the training, and the people were great. Lots to learn and lots to do.” Travis has lived in Black Lake all his life and prefers work that keeps him close to home with his wife and three sons, aged 13, 9 and 1. “I liked the 2 weeks in and 2 weeks out schedule at Cigar Lake – it was good for family life. When you work on sites that are far away, schedules like 3 and 3 and 4 and 2 – that’s where you can see people go a little nutty.”

But when the work dried up, Travis didn’t hesitate to take his skills to a new company. “I go where the work is. After Team Drilling, I went to Driftwood Drilling. I was with them for a year. I was in BC, Smithers, and Yukon Minto mine. After that, I went to GeoTech drilling and did underground work at Hope Bay, Nunavut. I was there over a year and a half. I moved on from them due to lack of work.”

In 2020, Travis decided to take his career in a new direction and entered politics. Travis was elected in June as a councillor and his portfolio includes North of 60, Treaty 8 and Education. “This is my first time on council,” says Travis, “and the first few weeks have been hard to get used to. Politics is very different than drilling. But I really enjoy meeting all the people, working with Chief and Council, all the band members, businesses and everyone. And I’m looking forward to spending a long time in politics.”

Keeping active is important to Travis, and when he’s not at the office or traveling for his new role, he’s always doing something. “After work, I go home and see my family. I go out fishing, hunting and other than that, I do yard work, and I do some work building sheds, decks. I like to keep busy!”

While Travis has enjoyed his time as a driller, he doesn’t recommend it as a career for everyone. “You have to like it outside, and it’s hard labour, really hard,” says Travis. “The drilling part is really hard work. Some people can’t handle it. Some will pick it up easy, some won’t. You see lots of different faces. If you want to be a driller, you have to push yourself harder. It’s a really tough job. And don’t do it if you’re afraid of enclosed spaces. But I’d go back to work for Team Drilling in Cigar Lake underground or get a different mining job for Cameco. I would like to work for them again sometime.”

For his own children, Travis will encourage them to choose their own career. “I hope they stay in school, get an office job, but they gotta choose for themselves. I like drilling and mining work but I like my new role, too. There’s always something to do, people to meet, wherever you go.”