Should mining companies be constructing residences for their employees living in the North?
Nunavut’s housing minister is turning to industry for assistance.
“We have no choice but to work in partnership with industry to resolve our housing challenges,” Patterk Netser said in the legislative assembly in February after Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie pointed out that the Government of Nunavut’s 2017 memorandum of understanding with Agnico Eagle makes reference to housing as one of 10 priority areas for collaboration.
Netser told NWT and Nunavut Mining that a team from the Nunavut Housing Corporation met with representatives from Agnico Eagle and Baffinland Iron Mines to discuss Nunavut’s housing crisis earlier this year.
“Some points of discussion included how existing income earners at mines can be assisted to develop their personal financial management to save toward purchasing a home, as well as seeking ways to increase affordable housing in communities of points of hire,” Netser stated. “Those discussions are ongoing.”
It’s estimated that Nunavut, where overcrowding is commonplace, needs close to 3,500 additional homes to meet existing demand.
NWT and Nunavut Mining asked detailed questions of Agnico Eagle about the company’s plans, if any, to begin building homes in Nunavut. This was the response from a spokesperson with the multi-national miner:
“Agnico Eagle has a good relationship and works in collaboration with the Nunavut Housing Corporation via our memorandum of understanding. We are sharing information and are involved in order to document the situation and to help find possible creative solutions to provide housing,” the statement reads.
Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, suggested that territorial governments should devote revenue derived from mines directly to housing. He said mines currently pay “whopping” property taxes each year that are essentially “windfall taxes” because the mines receive nothing in return for the payments.
“Often people in communities are so used to government paying for everything that they might not realize that all the taxes that mining companies and their workers and businesses pay to government is actually benefiting them and their community,” Hoefer stated. “So they might naively say, who cares about mining because everyone knows the government pays for everything. So one idea to create the appropriate linkage would be to create a new housing fund, and have the GN or GNWT put all the property taxes they receive into it, and then use that fund to build new housing in the communities. The more new mines that are built, the more new houses are constructed.”
This structure would allow mines to continue to concentrate on mining while the government oversees the building of homes, Hoefer added.