Nunavut miner calls for Arctic strategy

Agnico Eagle CEO Sean Boyd says the federal government needs to make the case for investing in the North

An aerial view of Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine site, just outside Rankin Inlet. (Photo courtesy of Agnico Eagle)

By Elaine Anselmi

On a damp day in downtown Toronto, the head of Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. told 150 people, mostly in suits, that if the federal government believes in the future of the North, it needs to show it.

“I think the federal government should be prepared to send a message that the North is important,” CEO Sean Boyd told Nunatsiaq News after his speech at the Canadian Club of Toronto, a platform for public affairs discussion.

“It’s not just important for the people that live there, but it’s important for the rest of the country in terms of being able to develop businesses that benefit all of Canada, and you have to make those investments.”

The Canadian company has two operating gold mines in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region. This is in addition to mines in Quebec, Mexico and above the Arctic Circle in Finland.

In Nunavut, Agnico Eagle is the largest private-sector contributor to the economy. By 2020, Boyd told the crowd, the company’s mines will make up 25 per cent of the territory’s gross domestic product.

Agnico Eagle’s optimism is on display in a campaign launched on Nov. 19, the same day as Boyd’s speech, called We Make Mining Work. The social media push will feature images and videos from Agnico Eagle’s mines and of its employees in Nunavut.

Agnico Eagle CEO Sean Boyd addressed the Canadian Club of Toronto on Nov. 19, urging the federal government to develop an Arctic strategy. (Photo courtesy of Agnico Eagle)

“Having been in the industry myself for 35 years, I see we’re not doing ourselves a favour because we’re not explaining the contributions mining is making,” Boyd said.

The spotlight isn’t something Agnico Eagle has a history of seeking, but they’re doing it now, he said, to show what is possible in northern mining.

“Twenty years ago, when Nunavut was carved out of the Northwest Territories, the Inuit used geological consultants to ensure the land it selected for itself was the most promising land available from a resource perspective,” Boyd said. Through the Nunavut Agreement, Inuit are one of the largest landowners in the world with more than 2 million square kilometres in their name.

“Now is the right time for Nunavummiut to determine and govern their own future, a future that unlocks the potential of their people and their rich natural heritage,” he told the crowd.

Speaking the day before the new federal cabinet was sworn in, Boyd said that Canada needs an Arctic strategy.

That strategy would include education and training for the northern workforce and renewable, affordable energy. And it requires addressing the North’s infrastructure gap: building roads, electricity grids, broadband networks, and airport and port facilities.

Currently, Agnico Eagle is the largest road builder in the territory. At a cost of $200 million, the company has built and owns more than 200 kilometres of Nunavut road.

Citing the Mining Association of Canada, Boyd said 70 per cent of the increased cost of working in the North compared to the south is due to the lack of infrastructure.

Building mines and opening new regions to development takes significant funds and Agnico Eagle’s come largely from outside Canada. The company’s shareholder base, Boyd said, is 75 per cent international, from the United States, Europe and Asia.

“These global investors are excited by the North’s potential and they are primed to invest, but they are anxious as they are getting mixed signals on Canada’s commitment to resource development,” Boyd said.

And he underscored that foreign investment is necessary to innovate and develop the infrastructure that is needed. But in mining investment, Boyd said Canada is losing its competitive edge without more federal government support.

“When we’re making that decision on where to go, it’s kind of nice if you know you’ve got a federal government that’s investing in infrastructure at the same time, because they believe in the future of that region,” he said. “If you know that they’re doing that, then you feel more confident in making the billion-dollar decision to build that business.”

Nunavut, like the rest of Canada, he said, wants to build a strong, diversified economy not solely reliant on natural resources. But from his experience working with the Government of Nunavut, Boyd said they also recognize the significant opportunity in mining: government revenue, spinoff businesses, training and education.

“Canada’s Arctic is under pressure and we all need to work together to defend it, to help the people of the North strengthen our sovereignty, to help them build the kind of economic future they want, and to do it in a way that protects the environment,” he said.

And you can, he said, do both.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Inuk Person on

    I’m glad Agnico brought this topic up! Canada’s arctic is like a little black sheep that no body cares about. Though the arctic is significant on an International level (make Canada look good), this country is neglecting it. Canada would rather give millions to aid other countries than to develop it to a first world country.

    Nunavut should just become its own country or be bought by others that can take care of it!

  2. Posted by Israel MacArthur on

    Talk to Trump, after his interest in Greenland you might be able to persuade him to make an offer on parts of the north. J/K

  3. Posted by Colin on

    What’s GN been doing for the past 20 years to educate and train an all-Inuit labour force for Agnico and Baffinland, including engineers, geologists, marine biologists and the skilled trades people they need? What’s it doing now?

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      To be fair to the GN they have been making incredible efforts to get people to attend k-12, which is the first step. Your aspirational workforce is decades away though.

  4. Posted by Mr. Ford on

    I’ve been working with the mines all my life 39 years and still working with agico eagle mines alongside with fgl .kcg. and all other mines .agico eagle been around 25 year s or so and they been training Inuit to whatever they want to be .agico 🦅 have been managing the wild life and the environment and big lakes the best I have ever seen and they’ll look after it . and there the only ones that have been training the Inuit to whatever they want to be in the mines .and agico eagle have been building the all weather roads the emergency runways that the Nunavut government wants from the Nunavut border to the central arctic gjoa haven.taloyoak or right up to Resolute bay by central Nunavut rail road to marry river mines .to Iqaluit.Agnico Eagle have built the roads all most to Gjoa haven close to it not too far left. Then in Rankin the gold mine .and then past Whale cove to Borealis gold deposits there .was going to be a mine before .but now there there then there off to Arviat gold deposits there too and south from Aviat close to the Nunavut border .and west of Aviat 178miles in land on the tree line called Colleton lake .was going to be a gold mine to .was in progress but the high cost off flying everything in .I built the roads and runways there to. But with Agico Eagle here building the mines and the all times all weather roads the emergency runways in all the weather season .the infrastructure potential is there .there doing it .they have the big the biggest bank gold deposits the Kivalliq gold vain. Agico Eagle do all the training in all that any one wants to be come. All the Nunavut government have to do is maintained with the trained and environmenless to work together professional as they move on .The railroads will be the safest and cheapest and to maintain Agnico Eagle mines. and Bertan perades and I have been doing it this far for the Kivalliq region. And still going on. We love the north

    • Posted by CLAUDE MASSE on

      Thank you for sharing! Diamond, gold, etc… and the environment are great richess that needs our commitments.

  5. Posted by Mr. Ford on

    Working with agico Eagle mines in the north in the Kivalliq region with Quebec and the rest of the provinces in spring summer fall winter sun sets sun rises blizzards northern lights Theres no life like it injoy life

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