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Powering up the workforce
Hamlet training program preparing workers for proposed Mary River Mine job opportunities

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, March 2, 2013

Come next week, the Hamlet of Arctic Bay will have two more skilled powerhouse workers.

NNSL photo/graphic

Qulliq Energy Arctic Bay superintendent Moses Naqitarvik trains hamlet residents Terry Ejangiaq and Edward Qaqqasiq at the Arctic Bay diesel generating station at the beginning of their six-month powerhouse training in September 2012. - photo courtesy of Clare Kines/Hamlet of Arctic Bay

Located about 280 km away from Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation's proposed Mary River mine site, Arctic Bay is one of six point-of-hire communities for the massive $4 billion project, and they are looking at bringing more than just heavy equipment operators to the table, said economic development officer Clare Kines.

"We're looking to diversify the training we do as much as we can in order to build the capacity of the community to take advantage of the jobs at Mary River," said Kines, explaining how a new six-month pilot project training power plant operators came about. "We're looking for ways to build up our capacity here so people could take advantage of jobs other than labour."

After speaking with Baffinland representatives, and combing through the initial concept of the Mary River project, anticipated jobs range in areas from power plants for the project's open pit iron ore mine, railway, and ports, where the hamlet could possibly meet the need for skilled workers, Kines said.

Amid a challenging global financial environment and the project's large capital costs, Baffinland has since revisited its initial project proposal and is amending the plan to include an Early Revenue Phase, that would allow more time before the project reaches its maximum scale.

However, in addition to the power plant workers that will still be needed for the scaled-down Mary River project, the skilled workers are also needed for other mining and exploration projects going on across the territory, said Qulliq Energy Corp. director of operations Dave Clark, explaining why the corporation has lent its facilities and expertise to the hamlet's training program.

"It's a benefit to us that there are additional people trained in the territory because a lot of the manpower moves around, and a lot of these jobs are transferable to other locations, if the candidates are willing to move," Clark said. "Every particular plant is slightly different but it's always good to have as many candidates available because of the flexibility of the workforce.

"The more people we have trained the better it is, and since Kakivak was up for supplying the support for this, we weren't about to turn it down."

Shortage of skilled workers in the communities has not only been a concern for the residents who are not fully able to harness the job opportunities that come with development, but for the proponents too, who are often forced to hire and fly-in workers from the south for mining and exploration ventures such as Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd.'s Meadowbank and Meliadine projects.

Kakivak, the business development arm of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, provided funding for the power plant pilot program through its Inuit youth work experience program.

This week, two hamlet residents who were selected for the course will be wrapping up six months of full-time powerhouse training at the Arctic Bay plant.

A Qulliq supervisor will be travelling to the plant to make sure the trainees understand all the requirements of power plant operation, and that they are working safely, Clark said.

If more funding is secured for the program, Qulliq has agreed to continue working with the hamlet to train power plant operators indefinitely, if possible, he added.

The program is set to be complete on March 7.

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