Baffinland course prepares workers, spouses for mining work cycles
Work-ready program offers education in two-week job rotations
Inuit in some Baffin communities need to get ready for the changes Baffinland’s Mary River iron mine project could bring.
That’s part of the message Baffinland took from their final environmental impact statement and public review process.
They’ve partnered with the Ilisaqsivik Society in Clyde River, the Kakivak Association, the Government of Nunavut and CanNor to create a Nunavut pilot program called “Work Ready,” aimed at preparing people for the two-week-on, two-week-off work cycles that Baffinland will use at Mary River and the social changes that come with it.
So far, the program, which was offered in Clyde River last November and is currently taking place in Pond Inlet, has been a success, said Greg Missal, vice-president of corporate affairs at Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.
“Not only are we wanting people to attend that are interested in jobs at Mary River, but we’re getting them to bring along their spouse with them,” he said.
For 10 days in each community, about 15 applicants and their spouses will “come together so they can both hear the information, because we think it’s important that they both know and that they both understand what the expectations will be [of working in a remote location],” Missal said.
Work Ready, which is delivered in Inuktitut and English, aims to “educate people about the things that they need to think about prior to taking a training program or applying for a job at Mary River.”
There’s a lot of basic information that’s provided on things like work rotations, and what lifestyle changes to expect at both the mine site and at home.
“Because, of course, the significance of working at a fly-in, fly-out operation is that one member of the family is working at the site but the other is still at home possibly with children or small children,” Missal said.
The goal is to help Inuit understand the challenges of leaving home for extended periods of time, and how they can organize things within their family.
That includes the importance of communication between people who work at the mine site and their family at home, Missal said.
It takes a family to make the decision to go to work at the mine site, he said.
So far the classes have been full.
Another 10-day session is scheduled for Igloolik in February.
The instructors for the course, from the Ilisaqsivik Society, are trained in this type of work, Missal said.
“They’re delivering the course, but at the same time they are training instructors who will be able to deliver the course in the future,” he said.
The social impacts of mining developments, such as increased income in a household, was looked at extensively during the environmental assessment process for the Mary River project, Missal said.
It not only looked at environmental issues, but it also at social-economic effects.
“We also heard the questions and comments that came up during the review process for the project, so those are all things that help us come to the conclusion that a program like this was very important and necessary,” he said.
These types of mine site jobs may not be for everyone.
“Not everyone is able to take a job away from their community or home, and it may not work for their personal circumstances, but we want people to be aware of what those circumstances are,” Missal said.
Colin Saunders, the economic development officer in Pond Inlet, agreed that so far, the response to the new program has been positive.
“It gives the students a chance to see what the potential impacts will be with increased income in the household,” he said.
The goal is that when it comes time to start working, the extra cash can be used for “positive means.”
To him, programs such as Work Ready are important for communities.
“It’s very important. There are not a lot of people who have experience working in mines, or working in places where there are rotational shifts,” Saunders said.
More support for workers is planned for the mine site.
“There will be elder counsellors out at the site, there will be assistance for some people who don’t have a lot of experience, to try and make it a little bit easier for them and maintain their employment,” Saunders said.