Kitikmeot in search of jobs for laid-off Lupin workers

A regional committee is helping to find jobs for about 50 laid-off Kitikmeot workers.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT ­ Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk will try to mitigate the worst effects of recent layoffs at the Lupin gold mine by setting up an ad hoc placement agency for unemployed miners.

Following an emergency meeting last Friday between government representatives, hamlet officials and Inuit leaders, a group called the Lupin Employment Strategy Committee was formed to compile data and skills profiles on affected workers.

The information will be used to market the workers’ skills to other mining companies in the region, says Wilf Wilcox, the mayor of Cambridge Bay.

“We’re also looking within our own municipalities for opportunities that might be there to keep these guys part of the workforce,” Wilcox said.

Fifty Kitikmeot workers lose jobs

The layoffs at Lupin, announced last week, will affect about 30 experienced drillers, electricians, apprentices, operators and laborers from Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk.

Echo Bay Mines Ltd. has said it’s suspending operations at the Lupin mine effective April 1 until world gold prices improve. Predictions are that won’t happen for at least several months.

The suspension of operations also spelled layoffs for at least one supplier, Kitikmeot Caterers, owned by the Kitikmeot Development Corporation.

Low gold prices had already prompted Echo Bay to mothball its Ulu mine project, a decision that resulted in eight fewer jobs this winter for ice-road workers.

Wilcox said a total of more than 50 employees in the Kitikmeot region have been touched by the downturn in gold prices.

Taking the families of the affected workers into consideration, Wilcox estimated the layoffs would be felt by as many as 250 people in the two communities.

“We’ve struck a working committee that will do the hands-on stuff and they’re going to report back to this group with data and recommendations. Then it’ll be our responsibility to find them jobs, one by one.”

Possible diamond project?

In the meantime there is reason for optimism, according to Charlie Evalik, president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Corporation. Lytton Minerals Ltd. will visit Cambridge Bay next week with news about the status of their Jericho diamond project near Contwoyto Lake.

“It’s not too far from Lupin. They might be able to take some of these people on,” Evalik said.

“I think with the experience they have, I’m optimistic that they’re going to get placements.”

Gold prices sinking

World gold prices, which are at an 18-year low, were also cited last week as the reason behind the decision to lay off employees at Yellowknife’s Con Mine, owned by Miramar.

Recent job losses in the gold mining sector have GNWT officials concerned particularly about their impact on families, but a spokeswoman for the NWT’s finance department said they would not greatly affect preparations for the government’s upcoming budget.

“Corporate income tax is paid on profits and the mines have been sort of hurting for a while,” said April Taylor, executive assistant to Finance Minister John Todd. “So I don’t think there’s been a lot of expectation on behalf of the GNWT that we’ll see large corporate income tax revenues.

“But the biggest significant factor that minimizes the impact of these mine shutdowns on the GNWT’s revenues is the fact that… our formula financing is constructed in such a way that when our revenues decline the formula increases. Any reductions in our revenues are largely offset by increase in the grant from the federal government.”

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