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Nunavummiut look to manage success

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Cambridge Bay/Baker Lake (Nov 20/06) - Around the territory, residents are starting to benefit from the land's vast mineral riches as three mines now hope to be in production by 2008.

In the Kitikmeot, Tahera's Jericho mine is already churning out Nunavut's first diamonds and construction of Miramar's Hope Bay gold mine will happen soon.

In the Kivalliq, Cumberland Resources is already working on a road from Baker Lake to the site of its would-be Meadowbank gold mine.

But as new jobs open up, communities must juggle a host of challenges not the least of which is minimizing the negative social affects caused by this new found wealth.

"This is in its infancy and nobody has got it right yet," said Cambridge Bay economic development officer Chris King. The combination of more jobs and income, lack of financial planning skills and extended downtime between shifts could lead to problems, he said.

"It's very much a hand-to-mouth mentality and with two weeks downtime people have the tendency to use their money inappropriately," said King.

"So far, Miramar has committed to providing that kind of training to try and prevent some of these problems from happening."

Prior to division, several mines operated in what is now Nunavut and residents have worked for years at the NWT diamond mines: Ekati and Diavik.

"Our experience is that alcohol is an issue," said King.

In Baker Lake, another Nunavut community on the cusp of experiencing a similar boom, work to minimize the negative affects associated with development starts with getting people up and out the door to work each day.

"Right now we've got a high rate of unemployed people," said Mayor David Aksawnee.

"There's been some training going on with regard to heavy equipment and some are going down south for training."

Once Meadowbank starts rolling, it's expected to mean 350 jobs with about 70 of those likely going to Baker residents. And that's creating a lot of optimism, he said.

"There's been discussion about creating jobs and the community itself is very positive about this," he said. "Right now we've got no problem with alcohol."

In order to legally purchase booze in Baker Lake, potential customers must have their requests approved by a local alcohol education committee.

"These people are elected by the community and it's unique in Nunavut," said Aksawnee.

"It's helping and working out pretty good so far."