Bernadette’s Take #45

A Swiss girl loves mining, men and machines!

Daniela Salzmann, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

DanSalzmann21This could be a snow angel if it were not for the hard hat! (All photos Daniela Salzmann)

Daniela (33) used to work in a Swiss bank in the city of Zug – and a happy employee since her boss was awesome. She was definitely not banking on a mining job in Canada.

She just wanted to travel in North America. Which she did in 2003 and 2008 together with her partner.

Be careful what you wish for! Daniela, who originally comes from Rapperswil located on the upper end of Lake Zurich, found a life in the Yukon Territory that makes her ecstatic. She happily exchanged her nice clothes with a hard hat, boots and dirty coveralls.

This Swiss girl went literally underground in Canada.

Dslazmann19You are outshining everything, Daniela!

She works as a Contract Administrator and Mine Clerk in the office of a copper and gold mine project in the Yukon, 3 and a half hours by car from Whitehorse. And she loves it! For Daniela, a dream has come true.

“It is a new start, a new life, I am a new person”, she gushes.

Daniela cannot believe how fast her life has changed in the last year. “As if I was on the passing lane all the time”, she says.

DAnSalzmann17Put on the breaks, please, put on the breaks!

Life had not always been good to Daniela. She was a witness when her sister got hit by a car and was seriously injured when Daniela was not even 5 years old. Back then, there was no care team who looked after people affected by tragedies. It was a trauma that she carried with her into her adult life.

But after a visit with a shaman on her trip to America, doors began to open for her. Daniela began to trust the unknown. And all of a sudden, everything started to fall into place.

When she decided with her then-boyfriend Arno to spend a winter in the Yukon Territory, she instantly found a room for them in a shared house.

DanielaSalzmannI hope this vehicle got snow tires…

Immediately, she was offered a job in a photo store in Whitehorse. She participated in the Yukon Nominee Program. This is a program through which employers apply for potential nominees in order to hire them.

Daniela was paid 1500 dollars a month, not a lot for a former Swiss bank employee.
But this was not important anymore for Daniela: “I’ve learnt what really matters in life.”

Here she explains it to me: “For me, life is about becoming rich in heart, giving love and receiving love, letting go of what doesn’t serve you any longer. Feeling home wherever you are and not to be alone – because you always have yourself.”

“Whenever doors close, new ones open up. Learning to be grateful for all lessons we human beings experience while being on earth.”

Nicely said, Daniela.

DanSlazmann18Daniela, her ex-boyfriend Arno and a friend (with whom she shares a XL t-shirt!) at the Swiss carnival.

Daniela and her then-boyfriend Arno went back to Switzerland, in early 2012, before they officially left their home country for good in the spring of 2012. They packed up and stored their belongings and emigrated to Canada. For Daniela, it was the right decision. For Arno, it was not.

He never found a job and he started travelling again. Eventually, they separated. “Arno still needs his freedom”, Daniela says. (Arno and Daniela are both convinced, that this was meant to be.)

Well, Daniela needs her freedom, too.

She quit her job in the photo store right after becoming a Permanent Resident of Canada because she did not like it anymore. Spontaneously, she decided to go to Switzerland to take part in the “Fasnacht”, the Swiss carnival. “I had to break free”, she says.

When she returned to Whitehorse, she started working with Dumas for the Minto mine project where she had been offered a job.


She lives in a small rustic cabin outside of Whitehorse for which she pays 600 dollars in rent. No running water, only propane gas for heat and power. The cabin is on a campground, but in the middle of nature. Her new friends call it “hardcore living”.


For Daniela, it is a fairytale.
“Life is so exciting”, she says. “Everything I dreamt of as a teenager, is happening now.”


It is high time for an

UPC (Urgent Phone Call) to Daniela Salzmann in Whitehorse.

Daniela, why on earth would a girl from Switzerland want to do the dirty work in an underground mine in Canada?

Well, I suppose I am not a typical woman. I find men in dirty working clothes cool! I feel comfortable in a male working environment. There are no catfights!

Don’t you have claustrophobia in an underground mine?

No, not at all. But when I am underground, I am extremely cautious. The ceiling of the mine gets secured with steel grids and rebars – it is a long and dangerous process.
Nevertheless, there can be loose rocks. You also have to be careful not to stumble and fall and you have to watch out for possible hazards at all times. It is pitch dark and you have to shout because it is so loud.

danSalzmann20I can’t see anything. It is too dark underground.

What exactly fascinates you in this strange world?

It is hard to explain. Mining is a world in itself. The environment you work in is not comparable to any other places I have worked so far. It’s a rough world. The language is rougher, it’s fast changing and there is definitely no place for whiners. Mining was, is and will always be a high-risk job.
I love watching the equipment in action. And I am impressed how the machines are maintained. The workshop is right beside my office.

Is that not a bit too close for comfort?

No! I love it! When one of this giant trucks is driven into the workshop, everything`s shaking. With this noise, I can tell you, trying to stay on the phone becomes a borderline experience!

So are you actually driving a machine in the mine?

(She laughs.) I wish! The only vehicles I am allowed to drive are the light duty vehicles for the transport of employees. You are not allowed to walk to work even though it is not that far.

Dslazmann22It is this kind of machines that Daniela is in love with. I wonder if it is an unrequited love.

This is really far away from your former Swiss banking job!

Yes, I definitely was ready for a change.
Instead of dealing with bank accounts I get the chance to go underground and I get things explained and I truly like that. It’s a long road to understand the process of bolting (ground support), drilling the holes, loading them with explosives, blasting and clear the area from rubble before starting with bolting again. At least I have an idea of what they talk about.

You seem to be very impressed by the labour involved – and the men!

That’s true. I have a lot of respect for them. Most of the employees live in Ontario, the “Mining Mekka”.

Ontario – that is far away!

Yes, there are only three people from the Yukon who work in the mine. All others come from places like British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, even from New Brunswick in Eastern Canada.

Dslazmann21Don’t hide, Daniela, we will find you!

And a girl from Switzerland. Do the miners ask you about your home country?

Sometimes. Everybody finds my Swiss accent sexy!

Do you earn more than just 1500 dollars now?

Yes. I earn more but by far not what the miners earn. I don`t have to pay for food or accommodation or laundry in the mining camp. You don’t spend any money there.

How gruelling is the work schedule?

I work two weeks, 12-hour-days. Then I have two weeks off.
The transportation from Whitehorse to the mine is either by bus or by plane – when the ice bridge isn’t safe anymore and the little ferry not safe to use either.

How do you recover from such long working hours in your spare time?

I often go hiking. I don’t have a good sense of direction. That is why I hike in familiar areas.
And I love my pickup truck dearly. It is a Ford F-350.


Daniela, you are surely not a typical Swiss woman!

No, in my heart, I am a cow girl. I love boots, a cowboy hat, Johnny Cash, camp fires, guitars and gazing at the stars.

And the Swiss carnival?

And the Swiss carnival, for sure!

DanSaltmann26P.S. If you have an interesting story to tell or if you know somebody interesting, contact us at!

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