Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut April 11, 2011 - 8:25 am

Mary River mine promises jobs, jobs and more jobs for Nunavut

"New opportunities for gaining skills, experimenting with different kinds of work"

JANE GEORGE
Heavy-equipment operators and truck drivers capable of driving ore trucks like this one shown in the draft economic impact statement will be among those who will benefit when the Mary River iron mine gets underway.
Heavy-equipment operators and truck drivers capable of driving ore trucks like this one shown in the draft economic impact statement will be among those who will benefit when the Mary River iron mine gets underway.
This map shows all the communities likely to be affected by the Mary River iron mine in northern Baffin Island, which promises to bring hundreds, if not thousands, of direct and indirect jobs to the region.
This map shows all the communities likely to be affected by the Mary River iron mine in northern Baffin Island, which promises to bring hundreds, if not thousands, of direct and indirect jobs to the region.

The huge Mary River iron mine project on northern Baffin Island would likely to create hundreds of new jobs that will be filled by people living there and in Iqaluit, the draft environmental impact statement for the project predicts.

This breaks down to about 600 new jobs during the construction period and about 300 more when the mine is up and running: that’s the promise contained in the EIS on the project, which Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. delivered to the Nunavut Impact Review Board earlier this year before its buy-out by the steel-making giant ArcelorMittal.

The draft EIS based its local job creation forecasts on the potential pool of skilled and unskilled potential workers in the region.

Volume four of the 10-volume, 5,000-page draft EIS details the project’s impact on the “human environment,” that is, how the plan to mine and move iron ore out of Mary River by rail and ship, will transform the lifestyle and economy of the region.

“A major project like Mary River represents the prospect that many opportunities will be introduced into the region for individuals — young and old, men and women — to develop abilities in areas of interest to them and to be able to apply these abilities in tangible and valued ways. New opportunities for gaining skills, experimenting with different kinds of work, and engaging in the wider economy will be highly valued by Nunavummiut,” the draft EIS says.

Given the relatively high turnover rate that is normal within fly-in, fly-out mine operations, “job openings are anticipated to be plentiful” throughout the life of the mine, the draft EIS says.

A door to the outside world will open up when well-paying jobs become plentiful and workers can live anywhere — even Ottawa — when they’re off their two-week work rotations at the mine site.

When the mine’s four-year construction period starts — as early as 2012 if the project passes the environmental review and permitting process, the total number of jobs in the Baffin region will increase by nearly 70 per cent.

During its 33-lifespan, from start to finish, 30 per more jobs are forecast for the region.

The Mary River mine is also expected to generate more than 1,000 jobs per year in the goods sector, mostly direct jobs created by the project itself.

The mine could also create 900 more indirect jobs in the service sector and some 600 to 700 jobs in the government sector, because people will have more money to spend— and pay more money in taxes.

“Job creation within the public sector will be influenced by the political decisions related to the allocation of increased revenues to government that are generated by the project,” which is expected to bring in more than $2 billion to the Government of Nunavut and about $1.9 billion to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. over its lifespan, says the draft EIS.

The mine will let workers commute to work from a variety of points of hire, so people will be free to choose where they live.

“If many residents choose to relocate to Iqaluit or to Ottawa, this may serve as a sort of “brain drain” out of the North Baffin,” the draft EIS acknowledges.

The mine will also bring in new tourism money to the region.

And the mine “may have the effect of enhancing Nunavut’s global “brand” through publicity that may be generated by the Arctic railway,” the 150-kilometres railway planned to run between the mine and Steensby Inlet, it says.

Overall, the mine will be “a major economic driver in Nunavut and may promote the development of new local and regional businesses related to the supply of industrial goods and services.”

To help people in the surrounding communities get and keep a job at the mine, the mine’s “Inuit Human Resources Strategy” will include pre-job preparation, training programs for contract and sub-contract activities, a management training program and an advanced skills training program.

Residents will have a better chance to benefit from new jobs if they possess education and skills because there will be more skilled than unskilled jobs at the mine site, according to information in the draft EIS.

To boost local workers’ success, the mine plans to adopt a “second chance” policy for workers who quit, but then wish to return and offer pre-employment job-readiness training, cross-cultural awareness, and on-going personal development orientation and training at the mine site.

“The no-drugs, no-alcohol policy is an important measure to create a supportive environment for workers to build their life skills,” says the draft EIS.

An impact and benefits agreement under negotiation with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association contains some other ideas to help Inuit workers on the mine site, such as Inuktitut-speaking work groups.

Inuit in North Baffin are used to speaking Inuktitut in the workplace. Nearly two out of every three Inuit work in places where Inuktitut is the prevalent language, the draft EIS notes.

The lowest rate of Inuktitut use is in Hall Beach, at 44 per cent, ranging up to highs of 75 per cent in Clyde River and 72 per cent in Igloolik.

While the draft EIS sees no negative effects from the mine in relation to the education and training it will offer, mine jobs are expected to affect the traditional harvesting lifestyle in a few ways.

Money from mine jobs may improve the affordability of harvesting activities, and workers may find time to hunt and fish during the “off” rotation and during vacation periods.

But hunters may have trouble balancing that lifestyle with regular work at the mine “difficult,” but they “might seek occasional or seasonal work with the project to earn modest levels of income.”

Residents of Igloolik, Hall Beach, Coral Harbour, Cape Dorset, Kimmirut, Iqaluit, Clyde River, Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay,  Resolute and Grise Fiord have a chance to learn more about the project during NIRB public information meetings scheduled for this month and next.

The first meeting took place April 9 and 10 in Igloolik.

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