Focus on Lupin
Kitikmeot leaders to discuss mine's impact

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

CAMBRIDGE BAY (Oct 25/99) - Kitikmeot leaders have asked their regional association to negotiate an Inuit impact benefit agreement with Echo Bay Mines.

Echo Bay owns the Lupin gold mine which is currently in care and maintenance. A surge in gold's price has led to speculation that the mine might be recommissioned next year.

Echo Bay's board of directors is to decide the mine's fate at a Nov. 2 meeting. With a multi-million dollar re-engineering plan, Lupin could produce gold at $250 US an ounce. Gold closed at $302.85 US in London Thursday afternoon. The commodity hit $326.25 US in London earlier this month, up dramatically from around $255 a month ago.

"We've enjoyed good employment with Lupin, and we want to ensure that continues," Cambridge Bay Mayor Wilf Wilcox said. Wilcox moved the Lupin mine resolution at the Kitikmeot Leaders Forum Oct. 14.

"We want to make sure we get opportunity, as we did before," he said.

An impact benefit agreement is being sought because the mine is on Inuit land, Wilcox said.

When Lupin was operating -- Echo Bay mothballed the mine in January 1998 -- between 45 and 60 Kitikmeot residents worked at the mine, located 400 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. Most were from Kugluktuk.

With Giant mine shutting down in Yellowknife, Wilcox said there is concern that jobs which might go to Kitikmeot residents will end up going to ex-Giant miners.

Resolving to negotiate an Inuit impact benefit agreement, and to have Echo Bay employ as many Inuit as possible, means the Kitikmeot leaders want to take a pro-active approach, Wilcox adds.

But obtaining an agreement from Echo Bay may be easier said than done.

Lupin began production in 1982, before the days of impact benefit agreements. Such agreements are included in the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement (Article 26) but they apply to commencement of production, not re-commencement of production as is possible with Lupin.

Kitikmeot Inuit Association president Charlie Evalik could not be reached for comment.

For its part, Echo Bay said Thursday it had not been contacted by the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

Robbin Lee, Echo Bay's director of investment relations and corporate communications, said if the mine is restarted, the company will look at four different hiring points, including Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, Yellowknife and Edmonton.

"We don't plan on changing our hiring status," she said. The two Kitikmeot communities are good hiring centres because they are close to the mine site, she said.

Echo Bay does have an impact agreement for Ulu which was signed in 1996. Ulu, also a gold property, is located halfway between Lupin and the arctic coast.

"I would say Ulu stands a good chance of going into production at some point in the future," Lee said.

Work at Ulu was suspended in summer 1997 pending a return to higher gold prices. Echo Bay retains permits necessary to mine up to 600 tons of ore per day from Ulu and truck it via winter road to Lupin for processing.

If Lupin is reactivated, it is likely work at Ulu, which was bought from BHP in 1995, will continue.