Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. wants to train up to 200 Inuit, including women and an elder, to help build an iron mine in Nunavut.

Speaking at a public meeting Wednesday in Iqaluit, company officials said they are in talks with several Inuit organizations to discuss hiring and training people for a variety of jobs available during construction of its Mary River iron project site near Pond Inlet.

"These people could then participate in construction of the mine, rather than waiting until operations four years later for [Inuit] land-claims beneficiaries to fully participate," Rod Cooper, Baffinland's vice-president of operations, said at Wednesday's meeting.

The company is currently in discussions with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Qikiqtaaluk Corp. and Kakivak Association, Cooper said.

Baffinland plans to begin construction of the Mary River mine in 2010, and start production by 2014. In total, almost 1,800 jobs are expected to be created on-site during the construction phase alone.

Cooper said the company is thinking of hiring an elder who would act as a mentor for young Inuit workers.

"We're finding a lot of land-claims beneficiaries, as employees, are relatively young people who haven't been away from home for, perhaps ever," he said. "They're finding the transition right now quite difficult."

As well, Cooper said Baffinland would welcome more female employees, adding that it already has more than a dozen women working at the Mary River site, he added.

"It may actually shock you that in open-pit mining in North America, women are actually preferred to men as heavy equipment operators," Cooper replied, in response to a question by Iqaluit resident Madeleine Redfern about opportunities for women.

"Because quite frankly, women are gentler on the equipment than men are," he added, as those in the room laughed.