Agnico Eagle marks mine opening with $1 million donation to community

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Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM) marked the opening of its second mine in Nunavut last week by donating $1 million to two community groups in Rankin Inlet.

Rankinmmiut celebrated the official opening of Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine mine last week. The celebrations took place over the course of two days with one event being held in Rankin on June 19 followed by the official ribbon cutting at the mine the following day.

On the first night, Jim Nasso, AEM’s board chair, presented a cheque for $250,000 to the Rankin Inlet Fire Department and another $750,000 to the Ilitaqsiniq Nunavut Literacy Council.

The $250,000 for fire department will go toward building a new facility to train firefighters from across the territory as well as Meliadine’s own emergency response team.

Jim Nasso, chairman of the board for Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., presents a cheque for $250,000 to the Rankin Inlet Fire Department during the first day of opening ceremonies for the Meliadine gold mine on June 19. Cody Punter/NNSL photo

“You’ll learn from them and we’ll learn from you,” said Nasso, addressing the crowd at Rankin Inlet’s rec hall on June 19.

Fire Chief Mark Wyatt said the centre was much needed in order to make sure firefighters could safely train for the situations they face.

The literacy council will use $250,000 of the donation to purchase a new building in Rankin Inlet, that can serve as the council’s permanent headquarters in the Kivalliq.

The other $500,000 will go toward offering programming throughout the region.

Agnico Eagle is scheduled to pay approximately $450 million in royalties and fees to the Kivalliq Inuit Association and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for its Nunavut mines of the course of the next 15 years.

The company expects to produce 230,000 ounces of gold at Meliadine by the end of 2019.

As the ribbon cutting ceremony took place the following day, politicians and mining executives reflected on how much progress has been made and how much more needs to be done to achieve its long-term goals.

“It’s a very positive step,” Premier Joe Saviaktak told Kivalliq News. “A mine brings good high paying jobs to Inuit.”

The mine’s workforce is currently just over 30 per cent Inuit, well off the mark of to 50 per cent goal set out in the benefit agreement with AEM.

In a speech to Rakinmmiut on June 19, Nasso said the company hopes to the mine to be 100 per cent managed by Inuit. He pointed to their mines in Mexico in Finland where they have been able to achieve this goal already as examples of the possibilities for Meliadine.

According to Sean Boyd, Agnico Eagle’s CEO, the biggest barrier to making progress on these initiatives is a lack of investment in education. He pointed specifically to the fact that territory’s education system does not prepare students to enter directly into post-secondary education.

“We get students that graduate from Grade 12, they’ll need upgrading to qualify to get into the trade programs. That shouldn’t be. The regular system should ensure that the students that are graduating can go right into trade school,” he said. “We’re going to need some investment. We’re going to have to rethink how we approach education and training.”

He added that investments infrastructure and renewable energy were also crucial.

Premier Joe Savikataaq told Kivalliq News the GN is working on plans to build a mine training centre.

“We don’t have a date or a location yet,” he said. “I’ve instructed the departments responsible for that they need to make a decision soon. The longer we wait to train Nunavuttmiut the more jobs we lose to southerners.”

While the GN is in the process of amending the Nunavut’s Education Act Savikataaq also agreed the feds need to their part to support education and infrastructure in the territory.

“I have told federal minsters and I have told the prime minister that the federal government has to do some nation building up in Nunavut – up in the Arctic. They did that down south, they built ports, they build railroads and they have to do that do that up North too.”