Should Inuit organizations buy into mining companies? Regional leaders weigh in

Audience member brings up question during forum at Nunavut Mining Symposium

Inuit associations becoming shareholders of mining companies, such as Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., was discussed by the presidents of the regional Inuit associations at last week’s Nunavut Mining Symposium. Pictured is Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine. (File photo)

By David Lochead

One possible picture of the future of mining in Nunavut was presented to Inuit leaders during last week’s Nunavut Mining Symposium.

“Has there been any plans, or thought, or discussions in place for Inuit to be shareholders to these big [mining] companies,” asked an audience member during the Listen to our Leaders forum on May 10.

Inuit organizations becoming shareholders of a company would mean those organizations would have gain part ownership of that company. If an Inuit association were to procure a sizeable amount of shares, it could potentially have the ability to influence decision making in that company.

In response to the question, the leaders for Nunavut’s three regional Inuit associations were generally receptive to the idea.

Kivalliq Inuit Association president Kono Tattuinee said his association having a stake in mining companies would mean Inuit in the region are “more than just a partner,” although it’s an idea for further down the road.

Stanley Anablak, the president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, agreed that Inuit associations are slowly moving in the direction of becoming part owners of industry, such as mining companies.

Olayuk Akesuk, president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association said if regional Inuit associations do want shares of a mining company, an agreement should be established when negotiations for an Inuit impact benefit agreement with a company starts.

He added that communities impacted by mining should be included in those negotiations.

In an interview after the event, Akesuk elaborated on his thoughts.

“It’s a good question on how we deal with mining companies,” he said.

He also said more research is needed to determine if it is the best way to deal with companies when they want to mine on Inuit land.

There are examples of First Nations buying into mining and energy projects in Canada. In 2020, a group of five First Nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan purchased a $1.1-billion stake in the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, which totalled 12 per cent of the project. The cross-border pipeline expansion project was ultimately axed by U.S. President Joe Biden in 2021.

Akesuk pointed out that being a shareholder of a mining company does not guarantee financial success.

“Sometimes you start losing money, sometimes you start making lots of money,” he said.

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., which runs the Meliadine and Meadowbank gold mines in the Kivalliq restion, is a publicly traded company, so its shares are available for purchase, pointed out Martin Plante, the company’s vice-president of Nunavut operations.

“One thing we’ve seen in the past is that we need to think outside the box and who knows where the future will bring us,” he said about the idea.

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(20) Comments:

  1. Posted by Beleaver on

    I think Inuit Organizations should be mine owners instead of partners with southern miners. If Feds want gold and there is gold in 3 Nunavut regions, KIAs and/or QIA should start a mining company and sell it to south. QIA should own mining company in Mary River and sell Iron Ore to any country who wants to buy it. 100% would be going to Inuit.

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    • Posted by Northerner on

      YOU BET, GET INTO THE MINNING BUSSINESS, BEATS COLLECTING WELFARE.

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    • Posted by Lives in Iqaluit on

      My concern is lack of experience and education specifically in mining. You’re talking about a field of work that often has more specialists than you can shake a stick at and then expect the Inuit associations to own and maintain at a high level of proficiency compared to world wide companies with elite staff?

      I want the beneficiaries working at the mines, I want them all to make great money for years and years. I just down think ownership is fiscally the right decision for the associations.

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      • Posted by CN on

        Just look at Canadian North. They’re 100% inuit owned but probably less than a fifth of their workforce is Inuit. Just because a mine is inuit owned doesnt mean they will give jobs requiring advanced proficiencies to people who barely scraped by high school (leave that to the GN!)

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        • Posted by Truestory on

          Nunavik Inuit owns C.N.. Not Nunavummiut. How do you think Peter Adamie got his 600k bonus years ago? I had a bro in law who worked there as an agent. He told me the price of fuel is an excellent excuse to raise the over priced plane fares. Thats why its so expensive in the stores.

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  2. Posted by Free on

    Commodity prices have been skyrocketing lately… Maybe the Nunavut Trust (i.e. Nunavut Inuit) already own some of those shares in mining companies? And then if there are company pension benefit plans, then maybe Inuit employees through their pension are also already owners?

    Might already be a moot issue… So might be just a question of percentages really… or a question of do we want to own through the RIOs in addition to through the Trust and through us as individuals… I myself have been part owner of Agnico Eagle but never yet part owner of Arcelor Mittal (co-owner of Baffinland)…

  3. Posted by Free on

    And then recently I think John Tugaak owned 100% of a mineral play… not sure where his percentage has gotten to…
    And Harry Iyerak I think has been 100% owner of mineral plays as well in the past… Not sure where that’s at now…
    But still Inuit have been owners already… not new ground unless the issue is “Do the RIO’s want to as well?”

  4. Posted by pissed off on

    Brave words to want to become OWNERS of mines or even SIZABLE SHAREHOLDERS of such mines
    No 1 Go check the capitalisation ( number of common sheres and their unit prices )
    and you will soon realize what kind of dollars it takes to have a real voice at the table when it is time to have your ideas considered.
    No 2 Let`s take the money issue aside with some sort of magic wand, where will you find the expertise to finance, build and run profitably such enterprises ?

    Let`s be real the mining industry is built on hundred years of expertises, retained earnings and well earned credibility.
    You don`t get into that game overnight with political will only.

    Thamks

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  5. Posted by Numbers on

    Can we acknowledge how silly this is? To have any meaningful percentage of shareholdings of large mining companies, you would have to have hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to invest. What’s AEM’s market cap today, 30 billion or so?

    There’s no world where significant share ownership of these large mining companies is realistic. Even if you poured every single RIA dime into shares, which would be a horrible decision because all your eggs are in one basket, it wouldn’t be meaningful.

    You could have a significant % ownership of junior miners with low market caps, but then you’re open to significant risk and a chance of zero dollars on your investment as most junior minors go bankrupt.

    You could have a non-meaningful investment (from a total shareholdings point of view) and typically RIA’s already do because shares are given as part of compensation that’s negotiated as part of the IBA. Although trivial to the mining company its a good thing because it means despite it being a fraction of the companies outstanding shares, it’s meaningful to the Inuit Association dollar wise which keeps them committed to the mine or share value could suffer.

    Lets not kid ourselves here though about a “sizable” amount of shares to have influence over a company via voting rights. Where are the RIA’s going to cobble together 3 billion dollars to have 10% of AEM’s outstanding shares.

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    • Posted by Balter on

      Basic ownership takes the form of royalties, to the people via the government.

      Of course significant ownership in the operations takes time; also it’s a good investment strategy to diversify. Maybe all mining should only be 25% of the portfolio, depends on your risk tolerance and your knowledge base

      But if you don’t start then when?

      It’s an entire pallette of skills for the kids to learn, from geology to ecology, finance to logistics – or, like some of mine, at least a decent job trucking or equipment operator.

      3 of mine have good work ethic #4 is talented, probably more than the rest, but takes a notion and walks: unemployable. They hire back once, maybe twice. You can’t run a business like that.

      Money in has to equal money out + contingencies as a bare minimum. And don’t expect any investment for “bare minimum” my taxes go for social programs, my investments do not.

  6. Posted by Truestory on

    Why?!?!. When phase2 was denied citing about the environment. Kind of hypocritcal don’t you think?

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  7. Posted by mikhangry4tendies on

    Nunavumuiit can do that on their own, open a TFSA and make your money work for you. the real question for the Government is why, do we allow 3 rd parties to profit off our land? and why not instead invest in full Inuit mining operations>?

    there is a certain control and corruption in Nunavut politics , look at the fishing industry … Nunavut has some of the richest waters for seafood, yet we only have one fish plant and another plant in Cambay. Nunavut is missing out on BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. the seafood expo was last month, i high doubt any government offficals were there

    Nunavut rely too much on 3rd parties and southern companies , resulting in monopoly and control.

    the Government should be helping more inuit open their own grocery stores , internet infrastructure , more inuit own business.

    if there was real change, the Government would invest more in their own people. but frankly we dont even have a inuktitut school in the capital .

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    • Posted by common sense on

      I have a business in Nunavut for 18 years +. I did not wait for the government to give me money. they never have. As far as schools in Inuktitut, the last I heard business for the greater part around the world is done in English. Maybe Nunavut should print its own money too. Not to worry the old generation will be gone soon enough.
      What happens then.

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  8. Posted by mikhangry4tendies on

    also, Nuanvut orgs need to be more transparent with funding. all this money, where does it go ?????? NUNAVUT TRUST? that probably pays their boardmembers 120k plus, n not even inuk.

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    • Posted by Follownews on

      Kitikmeot KIA is laughing all the way to the Bank !!

  9. Posted by 907 on

    Well just look at how our Inupiat brothers over in the north slope are faring. They run the oil and gas and mining game on the North Slope. MAybe look to them for advice,

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      No they don’t. They enter into limited partnerships with oil and gas companies who know what they are doing.

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  10. Posted by John on

    I am surprised by some of the comments about Inuit ownership of the mine. Inuit own the land. Southern companies are not coming in and taking it. Inuit through NTI and last week’s Mining Symposium are promoting exploration of the land for the southern companies to spend exploration money and find minerals. When they do find minerals, these southern companies spend even more money to develop them into mines paying rent, royalties and taxes to the Inuit and government. Are we suggesting that once these companies have risked their exploration money and spent their money to develop a property, that it should be taken away from the mining company and given to the Inuit. That would be theft. Certainly the company would have no issue selling ownership to the Inuit. As Mr. Plante of AEM said, the shares are publicly traded. Anyone with money can buy them. Baffinland investors have put $3 billion into developing that property over the last 20 years. I would wager that with the negative decision, if Inuit wanted to own the mine and buy in for a 50/50 deal for $1.5 billion, they would gladly say yes. Inuit would get an equal say in how the mine was developed and whether they lose money on their $1.5 billion investment or make money on it. The only question is whether the Inuit have $1.5B to invest in Baffinland or they expect the Feds and the rest of Canada to pay for them to buy it. QIA sure has a lot of money from Baffinland that they have stockpiled in their bank accounts but probably not $1.5B.

    I do think it would be wonderful to see an Inuit exploration/mining company in Nunavut, doing the prospecting, finding the minerals and going to the same investors/lenders to try and finance putting it into development. That would make a great business.

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  11. Posted by Ken on

    Inuit should be buying into trades schools and more education instead, long term planning instead of dirty money in front of your face.

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  12. Posted by Another guy on

    Just like down south, people use sovereignty, nationalism, for the good of the people to line their pockets, I think it would be good if the Inuit ran the mine but this seems like a shortsighted impulsive move because it means a bigger cut of the pie for those orgs/groups already doing well.

    What would really make sense would be more focus and funding from mining profits on formal education in communities as a stepping stone to college and university so the north has skilled trades people and college educated specialists to work in these industries.

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