Here for the long haul
Mining companies have growing interest in Nunavut

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (Mar 26/97) - Political stability, outstanding geology and a strong workforce will make for a promising mining future in Nunavut.

That was the consensus among the 75 companies and 35 agencies at the Nunavut Mining Symposium in Rankin Inlet over the weekend.

"I think there's good interest in our company to look at Northern Canada in a greater degree," said Jim Rothwell, president of the Lac De Gras BHP Diamond Project. He travelled all the way from Melbourne, Australia to attend the symposium.

"There's a lot of activity, a lot of interest and potential for developing mines," he added.

While no new mining breakthroughs were mentioned at the symposium, companies did highlight the work they've been doing in the various sites across Nunavut.

"I think the symposium is a good constructive forum. People seem to be open and communicating well," said Rothwell.

Rankin Inlet Mayor John Hickes also called this year's symposium a success.

"Last year they came to have a look, this year they came because something was there for them," he said, Sunday.

Joint-venturing explored

Over the weekend, delegates and exploration companies got together to discuss ways of getting more involved in communities to promote mining and community growth.

One proposal, Hickes said, was joint-venturing where, for instance, participating businesses could develop apprenticeship-type programs or scholarships to prepare Nunavut youth specifically for the mining industry.

One joint-venturing initiative -- offered by the NWT Community Mobilization Partnership -- was revealed over the weekend at Nunavut Arctic College.

Fifteen students enroled in a 21-day Mining Readiness course were matched-up with the various mining and exploration companies in Nunavut.

At the gathering, students briefly introduced themselves and passed out resumes. Hickes said the occasion was like a hockey draft that you would see on television.

When companies selected their workers they chatted and went out for dinner to discuss further business.

Rankin Inlet's Penena Gordon was one of the students approached during the draft.

WMC International, BHP Diamonds and the Geological Survey of Canada detecting Gordon's strong desire to work in the mining industry all made offers of employment.

Though anxious to find work after being unemployed for two months, Gordon said she was not prepared to make any career decisions or commitments just yet.

"The next step is to see how the weekend goes and I'll weigh the differences," she said."

A couple of the companies that approached her were offering summer employment but she said she wanted something a little more long-term.

Her preference is an administrative position perhaps with a mining company like BHP which is already established in the North.

INCO, a long-time exploration company in Nunavut that's currently exploring for base metals in the Heninga Lake area near Arviat, made commitments to hire two Arviat students enroled in the course.

"They've shown they're capable and they come recommended," said Jorma Hannila, Inco's manager of Exploration in Central Canada and NWT.

He said the course is a fine first step to get workers into the mining industry.

"If they show a willingness to work, they'll be given opportunities down the road."

More courses could come

Hickes is confident more programs like the mining readiness course can be offered in the area.

He said details will be made public later about a recreational program to fix up the local community centre.

"We're going to focus on a community-wide program to enhance recreational capabilities," he said.

Before delegates went their separate ways Sunday, they announced a third mining symposium to be held next year in Cambridge Bay.

"Having these companies here tells me that the mining industry is here for the long haul," said Hickes.