Pond Inlet man first to load ore on largest bulk carrier at Milne Inlet
Gavin Kunuk is a ship loader, back in Pond Inlet is a supply teacher
When Baffinland recently welcomed the biggest bulk carrier to ever load at the Mary River iron mine, it was Gavin Kunuk from Pond Inlet who loaded the first bucket of iron ore onto the vessel.
“The boys were congratulating me and fist-bumping. They were happy for me,” said Kunuk.
A bulk carrier is a large vessel that transports unpackaged cargo, such as iron ore. The Capesize class of carrier, owned by German company Oldendorff, is one of the largest in the world at 300 metres long and 50 metres wide.
Kunuk is a ship loader with Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., which uses Milne Inlet port near Pond Inlet as part of its operations at the Mary River iron mine.
As a ship loader, he loads iron ore onto a conveyor belt which in turn loads ore onto bulk carriers.
The Capesize arrived Aug. 29 and left Aug. 31.
“It’s a fast-paced environment,” Kunuk said of ship loading.
“We have to keep going and going.”
He started as a ship loader with Baffinland just over six months ago.
Kunuk said he has wanted to work in heavy machinery ever since he was a kid, when he loved loaders and playing with toy versions in the sandbox.
Outside of his work as a ship loader, Kunuk also works in Pond Inlet as a supply teacher.
“I love it,” he said of teaching.
He started supply teaching in the beginning of 2022 and said that being a good person and having patience are key parts of the job.
“I’d never been a supply teacher before, so I wanted to try it,” Kunuk said,
“And I’m always going to be a supply teacher now.”
The Capesize is twice the size of other carriers used by Baffinland to ship iron ore, said Peter Akman, Baffinland’s head of communications, in an email.
He said Baffinland expects four Capesize vessels to visit Milne this season. In the 48 hours the Capesize docked and left, it loaded 165,000 metric tonnes of iron ore.
Baffinland is waiting on federal approval of a temporary permit that would allow it to ship six million tonnes of iron ore from Milne Inlet through 2024.
The company’s plan to expand the mine’s output to 12 million tonnes per year was shot down last year by Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, after a multi-year review process.
Now, Baffinland is focused on a long-term plan to keep its operations economically viable.
Representatives for the company have argued that its current permit to ship 4.2 million tonnes of ore per year from the mine is not enough to sustain operations.