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Revisiting Baffinland and the QIA's amended Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement a year later

October 3 marked one year since the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and Baffinland Iron Mines renegotiated their Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement.

The new deal is intended to bring greater advantages to the regional Inuit association and its membership.

The QIA recently provided an update on the terms outlined in the updated IIBA.

A project manager is being hired to oversee a feasibility study for a regional training centre to be based in Pond Inlet. Baffinland and the federal government have pledged funding toward the facility. In the coming months, QIA plans to hold consultations on the types of training that will be hosted at the site and the location of the centre in the community.

Pond Inlet will also be the first community to take possession of a marine research ship that Baffinland has already purchased. Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Iglulik and Hall Beach will benefit from research vessels in future years.

Iqaluit's Simonie Alainga stands in front of one of the giant haul trucks at Baffinland's Mary River mine, where he underwent a week of orientation through the Q-STEP program in early October. “I wanted to try something new and different,” he said. photo courtesy of Simonie Alainga

For 2019, the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, which submitted an accepted proposal, is absorbing the $200,000 available annually through the Wildlife Monitoring Program.

However, the $400,000 designated yearly to pay for harvesters' fuel usage in Pond Inlet hasn't yet been distributed as Baffinland is still deciding upon a method to do that. The QIA has made suggestions.

An expanded Inuit training budget – now standing at $2.25 million per year – means that there is more in the coffers for the Qikiqtani Skills and Training for Employment Partnership (Q-STEP). The program has introduced hundreds of Inuit to the mining industry, heavy-equipment operations, apprenticeships and provided academic upgrading since 2017.

Click on image to read downloadable edition of Nunavut/NWT Mining 2019.

There are constantly new intakes into Q-STEP, according to the QIA. During early October, Simonie Alainga was one of five Inuit beneficiaries to fly into Mary River to experience life at the mine site for a week. He spent time with maintenance department staff, who worked on small vehicles like pickup trucks and loaders, also known as skid steers.

Then Alainga was assigned to the crews handling the massive haul trucks and was invited to climb up to sit inside.

“I was very excited. It really blew my mind when I saw the 793 (haul truck) for the first time,” he said of the 5.5-metre high behemoth that can carry close to 250 tons and has more than 2,400 horsepower. “You could see everything (from the driver's seat), except for what's in front of you, basically.”

Alainga, 23, never finished high school. When he saw a poster promoting Q-STEP and the possibility of employment, he chose to apply.

“Once I saw that I wanted to jump on it as soon as I can... they were telling me that they're going to help me upgrade my education and that was one of my biggest points of going into this program,” he said. “I want to try and start my career with QIA and Baffinland.”