New plan would train 300 Inuit

Mine training scheme tries to fix past failures


Through a mix of personalized and practical training, a $50-million program plans to train Inuit as heavy equipment operators, mechanics, plumbers, electricians and underground miners at Nunavik's Xstrata nickel mine.

The program's name, Tamatumani or "try again,"is apt because many previous efforts to train Nunavimmiut for careers at the mine- and then keep them on the job – have achieved mixed success at best.

The new five-year program will work towards creating a bank of 300 Nunavik Inuit to meet the increased demand for workers at the mine, says Michel Boucher, the vice-president of Xstrata's Raglan nickel mine.

Boucher says this new program is a serious and "avant-garde" effort aimed at boosting Inuit employment at the huge mine, which plans to double its production over the next five years.

To increase its changes of success, Tamatumani's participants will follow tailor-made, individualized training and receive beefed-up support while they learn.

In addition to supervised on-site training, participants may also take upgrading in academic subjects.

And, if they need it, they may even take lessons on how to speak basic French. The goal behind that is to achieve better communication between Inuit and their mainly francophone co-workers.

To strengthen links between the mine and local communities, participants' families will be invited to visit the mine site, which is located between Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq, Boucher says.

Trainees who complete the program will be hired full time at Xstrata and, if they decide not to stay at the mine. they will be qualified for other construction, mining or municipal jobs.

Ottawa, through its Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership program, has agreed to pay the program $9 million over five years, through a new non-profit corporation called Tamatumani.

Its board of directors includes representatives of organizations and government agencies involved in the program, which include the Kativik Regional Government, Xstrata, the Kativik School Board, Makivik Corp., Quebec and the federal government.

Quebec also plans to funnel $3.9 million to the training program over the next three years through the KRG's employment and training department, which will manage the entire program.

Statistics on Inuit employment at Raglan from the last quarter of 2007, presented at the KRG council meeting this past February, show that out of 612 workers, only 99 are Inuit.

The overall proportion of Inuit workers on the entire mine site stood at only 14 per cent, despite millions of dollars spent on training courses since then to prepare Nunavimmiut for mining careers.

That's well below the 20 per cent target set when the Raglan agreement was finalized in 1995.

Last August, XStrata, which took over the mine from Falconbridge Ltd. in 2006, announced plans to double its production by 2013.

After the expansion, Raglan will be one of the largest nickel mines in the world.

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