No bank in Baker Lake despite mining boom
People in Baker Lake, Nunavut, are enjoying an economic boom these days, but they can't take their money to the bank, as there is no branch in the community.
Currently, residents in the town of over 1,700 must bank by phone or online or use standalone ATMs at local grocery stores when they need cash.
The absence of a bank is a acutely felt in Baker Lake, where more than 100 people are working at Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd.'s new Meadowbank gold mine.
The mine, which poured its first gold bar in March but officially opened in June, is located about 110 kilometres by road north of Baker Lake in Nunavut's Kivalliq region.
There are currently 241 people from various Kivalliq communities working at the mine, about 130 of whom come from Baker Lake, mine manager Denis Gourde told CBC News.
Gourde said the pay is good even for unskilled labourers who have just joined the company, with starting wages ranging between $20 and $25 an hour.
A number of other Baker Lake residents are also working for other mineral exploration projects in the area.
The local prosperity is showing: Gourde said he has been taken aback by the new trucks and cars on Baker Lake's roads since the mine opened.
"You can now have rush hours in front of the Northern [store] in Baker," Gourde told CBC News.
3 Nunavut communities have banks
Agnico-Eagle has helped its employees set up their own bank accounts, into which their paycheques are deposited directly.
Still, it is next to impossible for residents to discuss their investments or retirement plans with a financial advisor in person.
Only three of Nunavut's 25 communities have bank branches: Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay.
The First Nations Bank, which recently opened a new branch in Iqaluit, says it is eyeing Baker Lake as part of its expansion plans.
"We've got plans today to expand into at least two other markets in the region," said Keith Martell, the bank's CEO.
"Baker Lake is high on our list of communities we're assessing."
However, a solution to Baker Lake's banking woes could be years away, so residents might have to continue making do with remote banking methods for the time being.