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Arctic Co-operatives wins Baffinland flight contract

Baffinland Iron Mines has chosen Arctic Co-operatives to transport employees and cargo from the south to its Mary River mine.

Arctic Co-operatives has earned a contract to provide passenger and cargo service to Baffinland's Mary River mine. The Co-op is partnering with Quebec-based Chrono Aviation, whose fleet includes Boeing 737-200, Super King Air 350, Dash 8-100, Beechcraft 1900-D, Pilatus PC-12 and Falcon 50-EX aircraft. The Baffinland contract should result in three to five flights per week, said Duane Wilson, Arctic Co-op's vice-president of stakeholder relations. Jean Pierre Bonin photo

The air services contract was officially awarded in March and takes effect as of April 1.

"Their approach was to develop a close partnership with us rather than just a typical business-supplier relationship," Mark Scherer, Baffinland's chief procurement officer, said of the rationale for selecting Arctic Co-operatives. "They also outlined their ability to be versatile, reliable and work closely with us to address Baffinland’s aviation needs both now and in the future, highlighted by their pledge to provide the best possible flight experience for our employees."

Arranging for flight services is nothing new to Arctic Co-ops, which works with close to a dozen carriers to deliver shipments of varying sizes to its member stores across the North.

"Arctic Co-operatives has been coordinating air transportation of all sizes and gauges for the last 47 years of our existence," Wilson said. "Really, when you look at the Mary River site – Baffinland's operation – it's really like another community in the Arctic. It's got its own airstrip and it's got hundreds of residents, and they need transportation."

The interior of a Chrono Aviation Boeing 737-200, which can carry up to 120 passengers or 13,800 kilograms of cargo. Jean Pierre Bonin photo

In this instance, the Co-op is partnering with charter carrier Chrono Aviation, which operates out of Quebec City and Saint Hubert, Que. The airline's fleet, commitment to safety and customer service and its geographical position "align very well with what Baffinland's needs are," said Wilson, who added that the Co-op also has access to a Boeing 767 owned by Cargojet.

Although Baffinland is aiming to grow its ratio of Northern employees, the miner has hundreds of workers who fly back and forth from the south, as well as an immense need for supplies.

Baffinland wouldn't reveal the value of the contract. Wilson said it's a multi-year deal, but declined to provide specific terms. He said the arrangement should result in three to five flights per week for Baffinland.

Because Arctic Co-operatives comprises 32 Co-op stores across the North, which are owned locally by community members, the Mary River air services contract will pay off for many Nunavummiut as well, according to Wilson.

"We're really excited about this because the Co-op model is one where the benefits accrue to the many," he said, nothing that a portion of the company's earnings are returned to communities through infrastructure improvements, donations to community initiatives and cash dividends. "By Baffinland making this choice, they're in essence making a decision to deliver economic benefits broadly throughout the communities."

Providing service to the Norther mining industry has been good for Arctic Co-operative's business. The company has been delivering food and supplies to Agnico Eagle in the Kivalliq since 2009.