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Inuit employment in Nunavik mines still weak

Only 175 Inuit work at the Raglan nickel mine


After years of training efforts, Inuit workers still only comprise 13 per cent of the workforce at Nunavik's Raglan nickel mine. (FILE PHOTO)

After years of training efforts, Inuit workers still only comprise 13 per cent of the workforce at Nunavik’s Raglan nickel mine. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavik Inuit still make up only 13 per cent of the work force at the region’s only fully operational mine.

At the Raglan nickel mine complex, in operation since 1998, only 175 of 1,292 workers are Inuit — well under the 20 per cent initially targeted for the region.

And those numbers haven’t changed much since 2012.

“The data for Xstrata mine site is very similar to last year,” said Margaret Gauvin, director of the Kativik Regional Government’s sustainable employment department, during a regional meeting earlier this morning.

“Contract companies have a harder time getting Inuit workers, and that brings the percentage down.”

A number of companies like Katinniq Transport, Iglu Construction and Nunavik Construction are contracted to work at the Xstrata site.

But increasing Inuit employment in the mining sector remains a priority for the KRG, which wants to encourage students to stay in school or return to school in areas related to mining, Gauvin said.

More than $10 million over the next two years is targeted at mine training in Nunavik — to respond to a growing number of mining projects in development and to address fears among Nunavimmiut that they are being left out of the process.

That follows a four-year, $28-million project to bring Inuit into the mine, which ended March 31, 2012, after having involved 873 Inuit.

Its goal was to train at least 200 Inuit to staff at least 70 long-term jobs at the mine.

Jobs may be also harder to come by at the Canadian Royalties Nunavik Nickel project, which was set to begin operating as the region’s second nickel mine this year.

Financial troubles have forced the company to restructure. That’s translated into about 150 layoffs, affecting about 15 Inuit jobs, Gauvin said.

But she said the company has been trying to redirect those workers into other positions.

“We’ve been assured that those Inuit workers will be protected,” she said.

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