For months at a time each year, Diane Haché works from dawn to dusk in Yellowknife peeling the plastic coating off lengths of copper wire.
Three years on, Haché is closing in on half-a-million dollars raised for charity. The money comes from selling the bare copper wire each year, and has gone in the past to help the Yellowknife Women's Society, Hay River's family support centre and Ulukhaktok's food bank — to name a few.
It's backbreaking work, sometimes stretching across all seven days of the week. When she isn't stripping wire, she's keeping an eye on the copper market to figure out when to sell. And Haché has no plans to quit anytime soon.
"It's always a race against Mother Nature — I try to do as much as I can in the spring and as much as I can in the fall before she gets too cold," Haché said.
Many tons of copper wire have passed through Haché's fingers since 2019, donated by her former employer, Diavik Diamond Mine. She's also had the support of many businesses — Arctic West loaned her an unheated carport, and supplies her with electricity; KBL Environmental gave her bags to put the copper in. Other businesses have let her use their excavators or loaders and hauled out the waste. Then she ships the bags off to Vancouver to sell.
The retired heavy equipment operator raised $94,000 in her first year and $178,000 in her second year. She expects to raise well over $200,000 this year.
"I'm going to check with the shelters around what they need — if they're missing something, I can help. If not, it's all going to go mostly for the kids — summer camps, sports," she said.
Amanda Annand, a communities adviser for Diavik Diamond Mines in Yellowknife, describes Haché's efforts as "turning that copper into gold."
Annand explained the cost of stripping the copper wire isn't worth it to the company because it's so time consuming. That would be lost money, if Haché hadn't taken it on.
She recalled meeting Haché after the first batch of copper had been sold.
"I think we were all just blown away. Diane radiates this amazing energy — she's so lively and has worked so hard," Annand said.
"She's the kind of person where if she decides to do something, she's going to do it, and it doesn't matter what anybody says."
The mine is set to operate until 2025, so there's at least a few more years of copper-stripping left. Annand said they plan to keep supporting Haché as long as she wants to keep fundraising.
As for Haché, she plans to keep it up as long as she can.
"People think I'm insane ... but I cannot explain it. I like it. I like to do it, I'm in my own bubble, I go at my own pace and it's so rewarding."