The Inuit community of Pond Inlet on Baffin Island faces many changes as the giant Baffinland iron ore project begins construction. Jobs are there for the asking, yet the company needs skilled employees and the community struggles.
Pond Inlet is a community of 1,300 people, all but 100 are aboriginal (Inuit). Major economic activities in the community include government services, hunting and fishing, oil exploration, mining, art production and tourism. The Baffinland Iron Ore Company’s exploration of the St. Mary’s River, about 160 km from the settlement, has injected substantial amounts of money into the community, such as supply contracts. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is a partner in the project.
The large Mary River deposit consists of a rich iron ore deposit, in measured and indicated categories, of more than 350 million tonnes at an average grade of 64%. Baffinland plans to build its Mary River project over the next two years at a cost of $750M. When done the mine will be able to ship 3.5-million tonnes of ore per year through Milne Inlet, using ships that carry between 70,000 and 90,000 tonnes. The ore is so rich that it does not require milling at all.They expect to use about 55 ships during the open water season, in addition to ships carrying sealift supplies and fuel. The life of the mine is expected to be more than 20 years for the first deposit.
The company has been deeply involved with the community and governmental authorities in gearing up local residents for the skilled jobs that it expects to use in the various aspects of mine operations. The socio-economic study the company produced revealed that the community is involved with land and sea based hunting activities. The community wants good paying jobs for its citizens.
Pond Inlet is grappling with prosperity. Local residents want good paying jobs, while the company wants skilled employees. People who perhaps had no jobs must learn to adapt to the rigors of a two week in two week out shift. Many will be busy building the new mine. Expectations of the community are high. The company has tricky job in managing these expectations. It can only do so much.