Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd. has taken 45 Nunavut government and business leaders on an all-expenses-paid tour of Finland and Greenland, but the company denies it’s trying to buy support for a second gold mine in the territory.
The company already operates the Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake, Nunavut, but it is hoping to secure support for its Meliadine gold project near Rankin Inlet.
Agnico-Eagle chartered a Boeing 737 aircraft on Monday to fly 70 people — including 45 Nunavut cabinet ministers, mayors, Inuit officials, regulators and business leaders — on a five-day tour of northern Finland, where the company operates the Kittila gold mine.
Delegates will meet regulators and community leaders in the region. They will also visit a mining school in southern Greenland before they return to Nunavut on Friday.
The company says it is picking up all expenses — airfare, hotels and meals — for everyone on this week’s trip. It has pegged costs at around $7,000 per person.
“Hopefully that at the end of the day, people will say, ‘Yes, we like what we saw, we would like to have something like this at Meliadine’ and go from there, rather than just put up fancy slides,” Eberhard Scherkus, Agnico-Eagle’s president and chief operating officer, told CBC News on Tuesday.
3 cabinet ministers on tour
Three Nunavut cabinet ministers are on this week’s tour: Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk, Economic Development and Transportation Minister Peter Taptuna, and Community and Government Services Minister Lorne Kusugak.
Kusugak, the MLA for Rankin Inlet-Whale Cove — the area where Agnico-Eagle’s Meliadine site is located — said he wants to check out what the company is doing in Finland and talk to locals about any concerns they may have.
“If this was a try-to-sell-a-deal kind of a thing, which some people may think, well then, I wouldn’t be here,” Kusugak said. “I think I’m able enough to know the difference.”
Kusugak said he and his fellow cabinet ministers obtained approval from the territory’s integrity commissioner before accepting Agnico-Eagle’s invitation.
Scherkus said he sees this week’s tour as an investment, but not a means of buying people’s support.
“All we’re trying to do is show people mining, show people the results, and then they can make their own decisions. But we are not in behind there twisting anyone’s arm,” he said.