Crane operator helps build giant Canadian flag

 | September 30, 2011
Photo contributed by Highland Valley Copper

Sun Peaks resident Deb McPhee has helped build many structures in her last four years as a crane operator, but none of them stirs up her national pride like this one.

McPhee helped build domes that feature what could be one of the largest representations of the Canadian flag.

The $25 million dome project is at Highland Valley Copper, an open pit copper mine near Logan Lake. It was designed to solve the site’s dust problem which poses environmental, as well as health, concerns to people in the area.

The three domes were the perfect canvas for the nation’s venerated symbol. The two outer domes are covered in red cladding, while the middle one has a giant red maple leaf with a white background.

“Everybody who’s seen it thought it’s a neat idea,” said Mark Freberg, manager of strategic planning at Highland Valley Copper.

The idea to incorporate a flag to the domes follows an informal tradition at other mines owned by Teck Resources.

“At different operations around the world . . . (Teck uses) the flag of the country that the mine is located in on some of the buildings,” explained Freberg.

He said that the Polaris mine in Nunavut had a huge Canadian flag on the side of its storage building, while a giant American flag was installed at the Red Dog mine in Alaska.

“So when we were designing these, we thought, that’d be kind of neat if we could do the same thing.”

McPhee operated the crane that carried steelworkers as they installed the dome’s cladding. The domes may serve a practical purpose for the mine, but for McPhee and the rest of her 15-member Interior Iron team, working on this project is more than that.

“We’re all pretty proud to be working on this,” said McPhee. “We’re building a part of history, so it’s quite an honour.”

Construction of the domes started in 2009 and was completed in September of this year. Each dome is 100 metres in diameter and 31 metres tall. To build each dome, galvanized steel tubing was fitted into a center aluminum hub. Then the framework was clad with steel. McPhee said it took the crew about seven months to build one dome.

According to Flying Colours International, the official flag supplier for the Canadian government, the largest Canadian flag ever made was 38 metres by 76 metres for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

In July of this year, Winnipeggers set a record by forming a living Canadian flag in front of the Manitoba legislature. Dressed in red and white, 3,400 people joined the formation, despite the rainy weather, to topple Victoria’s living flag record of 2,100 people.

At crunch time, the Interior Iron team pulled 50-hour work weeks to complete the project. It’s a lot of work, but like the Winnipeggers who stood in line for hours in the rain, they took it in stride.

“This is something the guys would just be proud to be able to tell their grandkids about,” said McPhee. “We all realize that it’s an absolute privilege and we’re all lucky to (have worked) on the largest Canadian flag.”