Nunavik’s young mine workers pave way for future generations – by Sarah Rogers (Nunatsiaq News – September 17, 2014)

“Sometimes it’s hard, but I keep at it because I’m always learning something new”

KUUJJUAQ — Siasi Kanarjuak never imagined working at a mine. Growing up in Kangiqsujuaq on Nunavik’s Hudson Strait coast, she was aware of the nickel mine operating only 60 kilometres to the south. She knew people from her community who commuted there for work.

But in her mid-20s, something clicked. Looking at her job options across Nunavik, Kanarjuak realized that work at a mine could offer benefits that other jobs couldn’t.

“So I went for an interview at Raglan (Glencore’s nickel operation in Nunavik) and I found out they cook for us,” Kanarkjuak told a meeting of Kativik Regional Government councillors last week at their meeting in Kuujjuaq.

“Then I would be home for two weeks — not just a weekend — and that was very appealing to me,” she said. “It gave me time to travel. If you look at it, it’s like having five months off [a year.]”

Today, Kanarjuak, 29, works to bring new Inuit staff to the Raglan mine site, as Inuit recruitment supervisor under the KRG’s Tamatumani on-the-job training program.

She’s one of roughly 160 Inuit employees who work at Raglan, about 18 per cent of the mine’s total workforce. And her job involves trying to entice more Nunavimmiut to look to the mine for jobs.

That’s been a challenge since the nickel mine went into operation in 1998, while Inuit employment numbers have remained below the 20 per cent level initially targeted for the region.

But Nunavik’s leadership hopes to change that, given that estimates have shown that over the next 10 to 15 years, there could be as many as four to six thousand jobs in the region’s mining sector.

A new plan launched earlier this year, the Kautaapikkut mining strategy, aims to double the current number of Inuit current employed in Nunavik’s mining sector and plans to prioritize the hiring and retention of Nunavimmiut women and youth.

There is also a push to retain current Inuit employees and help move them up from entry level positions.

At Glencore Raglan, for example, more than 30 Inuit employees have been identified under the Rapid Inuit Development Program, which targets staff for on-the-job training to move into more senior and management positions.

“Some people say that Inuit are not qualified enough [for mining jobs], but we’ve told them they could do on the job training for them,” Kanarjuak said.

That’s what her co-worker Samwillie Grey-Scott’s focus is.

Originally from Aupaluk, Grey-Scott was hired at Raglan as an underground miner four years ago. Earlier this year, he earned a new title: underground mine trainer.

Since March, Grey-Scott has been training Inuit on heavy equipment, working closely with one or two staff at a time.

Much like at Agnico Eagle Mines’ Meadowbank mine in Nunavut, Inuit — men and women alike — are moving into skilled positions as haul truck drivers and heavy equipment operators.

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