Underground haul-truck driver Katelyn Netser will don her hard hat again when she heads back to Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.’s Meliadine gold mine at the end of this month. (Photo courtesy of Katelyn Netser)

Nunavut resident moves south to return to mine job back home

“There are a lot of Nunavummiut who want to move down south so they can go to work at the mine”

By Jane George

Underground haul-truck driver Katelyn Netser has her eye on Sept. 28: that’s when she returns to work again at Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.’s Meliadine gold mine in Nunavut.

It will be her first two-week rotation at work since mid-March, when all Nunavut-based employees at Agnico Eagle’s two gold mines were sent home due to concerns about COVID-19.

Netser will be able to go back to work at Meliadine because she is no longer based in Nunavut.

“I am excited,” she told Nunatsiaq News. “I miss my colleagues and co-workers.”

Netser graduated in 2018 from a heavy equipment operator program at Nunavut Arctic College’s trades training centre in Rankin Inlet.

Now, eager to get back to work, Netser decided to move last month to Winnipeg, which has a population of about 600 Inuit.

Netser, 29, who is originally from Coral Harbour, also said she moved south to get good housing.

When she worked at Meliadine previously, she said she lived in nearly every community throughout Nunavut due to the lack of adequate housing in the territory.

Netser said she would work for a two-week rotation at Meliadine and then fly to a community where family and friends had room for her, “so I could have my own space.”

The move to Winnipeg resolved the issue of being able to work and having a place of her own.

“There are a lot of Nunavummiut who want to move down south so they can go to work at the mine,” Netser said.

While it’s not clear just how many of the mining company’s employees are based in the south, Agnico Eagle said three have moved south since the start of the pandemic.

Agnico Eagle reduced its activities at the mines on March 23, when the company sent its 400 to 500 Nunavut employees home as a COVID-19 preventive measure.

Since then, Agnico Eagle has spent $1.4 million per month to support its Nunavut-based workforce, paying them 75 per cent of their salaries.

But the company’s goal is to get everyone back on the job, said Melissa Bradley, Agnico Eagle’s community relations and communications superintendent.

“We understand the financial impact, the social impact and even the social and personal impact that it has on our Nunavut employees to be at home since March,” she said.

“But all of our employees are still employed by us and we have renewed the 75 per cent pay.”

As well, an Agnico Eagle–sponsored “good deed brigade” in Kivalliq communities has also allowed workers to volunteer for local organizations and receive 100 per cent of their pay, she said.

Employees have always been allowed to change base, or home location, Bradley said.

“We try to accommodate that, but in terms of COVID, the goal is definitely to have people back to work from their communities,” she said.

To that end, Agnico Eagle is looking at “many ways and proposals” to get people back on the job as soon as possible.

“But we want to make sure that the government and the communities feel safe,” Bradley said.

Right now, southern workers are tested before they board aircraft to head north. On arrival at the mine sites, they self-isolate until their test results come in, usually a few hours later.

There have been no positive cases, she said.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Darren on

    GOOD FOR YOU! You are an inspiration to all young Inuit. You figured out what you wanted in life and you went for it regardless of obstacles in your path. Many institutional issues overcome PLUS the actual hard work on the site. Truly inspiring.

    • Posted by Sam on

      Great for her better housing,cheaper housing, cheaper food,better medical, and paying her taxes in Manitoba, great job Nunavut , let’s drive our youth south.

      • Posted by More Power To Them on

        Not only the Nunavut push factors, the pull factors of other provinces are very strong.

        I’ve read repeatedly that about 35% of Inuit have permanently left, and I believe it.

        I don’t criticize them at all. Just like anyone else, you go where you can be happy/successful.

        More power to those doing what is necessary to be happy in life.

      • Posted by Okay on

        An interesting perspective. Ambiguous nunavumuits will become southern residents so they could work at the mines in Nunavut. It could be a win for the workers, and a loss for Nunavut in term of spending within the communities.

    • Posted by Northern Fender on

      Completely agree. This young woman figured out what she wanted and did it! Kudos to her!

  2. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    100% agree with first comment a great example to follow!

  3. Posted by WB on

    That’s a pretty misleading headline, since half of her comments were about housing.

  4. Posted by Eskimos fan on

    Awesome for Ms. Netser.
    I worked at Agnico in Baker Lake for 15 months & my children & I were homeless so we moved to Ottawa to get housing.
    I told the Human Resources people at Agnico we were moving & the HR lady says, “You can’t live there and work here. You’ll have to quit.”

    • Posted by Caribou Expert on

      If you are a contractor, they will not pay your flight on Nolinor from Mirabel. Many Inuit employees are contractors so they would not qualify for benefits such as flying (which cost the company lots of $$$), around $200,000 per flight.

  5. Posted by Old trapper on

    So if you’re living in Ottawa you can’t work there and if you are in Winnipeg or Quebec you can work there ?something not right there again.

    • Posted by Skilled Work on

      I imagine this is related to skilled labour. If you’re a skilled employee, like Ms. Netser here, then the mine is likely willing to fly you up from Winnipeg, Ottawa, or Quebec, to work at the mine. If you’re an Inuk janitor or food services worker that they hire out of Rankin or another Kivalliq community, then they probably won’t keep you employed if you move to Ottawa. This is just my guess, I don’t have all the facts or info.

  6. Posted by Taima on

    Nunavut as an Inuit owned and Inuit run homeland for Inuit was a great idea.
    But something has gone very wrong along the way.
    The Cabinet needs a serious retreat to review the situation and restructure, re-focus. No consultants. Just the bosses. If they cannot do the job, they need to face the Legislature and resign. Let others do what needs to be done. If there are not enough competent people in the Legislature, then it needs to be disolved and new elections held.
    As it is, the GN is becoming less relevant and more of an obsticle every day.


    • Posted by No Effect on

      How could the cabinet in any way change anything? They have little to no effect on the national economy, and that is what we are talking about here.

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