In the next few days, Agnico-Eagle will pour its one-millionth ounce of gold at its Meadowbank mine near Baker Lake, Nunavut, a major milestone for a company that faced big losses just a few years ago.
In the final three months of 2011 Agnico-Eagle lost more than $600 million, and cited the high cost of its operations at Meadowbank as one of its main challenges.
Dominique Girard, general manager of Nunavut's only operating mine, says things are turning around at the site.
"Let's say the biggest challenge has been to mobilize all the crew and to go, everybody together, in the same direction and that's what we achieved just in 2012 and we've succeeded," he said.
Agnico-Eagle posted record profits in 2012, crediting strong production at its other mines and increased efficiency at Meadowbank.
In 2012, Agnico-Eagle contributed 30 per cent of Nunavut's GDP. It spent $400 million in contracts, including $120 million to Baker Lake businesses. It also paid $20 million in wages to Inuit from all over the Kivalliq region.
Krystel Mayrand, the company's HR superintendent, said their goal is to open more apprenticeships in plumbing and carpentry, something the company says is essential before it sets its sights on another mine near Rankin Inlet.
Agnico-Eagle now has more than 200 Inuit working at its Meadowbank site, including 70 women.
Mayrand said the mine's workforce includes 13 Inuit female haul truck drivers, including Anna Pilakapsi.
"She's a haul truck driver, she's from Rankin Inlet and she really showed that she had great skills on haul truck and also a great attitude. She was developed as a trainer, she's now working as an instructor, training all the other operators."
Mayrand said Meadowbank employs only one female trucker driver from the south.