Kitnuna Corporation: Facilitating Economic Development in the Arctic

Kitnuna Corporation (Kitnuna) has a little bit of something for everyone in the far north region of Nunavut. The corporation is a 100-percent Inuit-owned joint venture between Kitkimeot Corporation and Nunasi Corporation. Kitnuna’s four subsidiaries work together harmoniously to facilitate regional economic development and are equipped with the expertise to run the gamut of services from construction to pharmaceutical within a 400-mile radius of the corporation’s headquarters in Cambridge Bay.

“We don’t really have a niche because our capabilities are so broad that we will submit tenders on everything from small environmental remediation projects to building a new air strip,” says Claudette Dion-St. Jean, COO of Kitnuna. Though the corporation might not have a set niche, the team is defined by a fearless enthusiasm for tackling challenges of any kind. The corporation was officially formed in 1999 ̶ the same year that Nunavut became an official Canadian territory ̶ but currently comprises four subsidiaries that have played a role in virtually every major infrastructure and economic development project in the region.

Kitnuna Projects Inc. (KPI) serves as the corporations’ multidisciplinary general contracting arm with experience in large environmental reclamation work and local infrastructure development projects. In fact, the company that eventually became Kitnuna built the Ulukhatok-Holman Airport in Ulukhatok, Northwest Territories, in the late 1970s. The corporation’s major recent clients include the Department of National Defense, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Kitnuna serves as a building material retailer for other construction projects in the area as well.

Restoring the Land

One of Kitnuna’s largest projects to date has been the reclamation of several Distant Early Warning (DEW) lines for the Department of National Defense. DEW lines were built in the wake of WWII as a string of radar monitoring stations to protect the country’s borders from possible Soviet attack, but the majority were abandoned before construction was even completed. The experimental structures often included housing, air strips and state-of-the-art communication structures, but officials recently found that the abandoned sites were contaminated with toxic waste, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Cleanup efforts began in the 1980s.

“The idea is to take these sites in very remote areas and restore them to the most natural state possible,” explains Dion St. Jean. The process is highly involved and requires the coordination of construction, catering, logistics and transportation professionals to effectively return the site to a habitable state. Professionals are often flown in and the most toxic materials are shipped out by barge for disposal or containment by specialists further south, leaving only a bronze commemorative plaque behind to signify there was once a DEW line station.

Kitnuna Expediting Services Limited (KEL), on the other hand, functions as Kitnuna’s logistics support division. KEL facilitates, furnishes and expedites the remote camp operations of companies working in the Arctic. Kitnuna Petroleum is the government of Nunavut’s contracted supplier of petroleum products to the community of Cambridge Bay, providing heating fuel for homes and aviation fuels to all aircraft coming in to the area.

The newest arm of Kitnuna is Kitnuna Pharmacy, a joint venture between Kitnuna and Super Thrifty Pharmacy, which opened in 2006. The pharmacy provides essential medical supplies to the regional community, like wheelchairs and therapeutics beds. The pharmacy also provides a variety of ancillary services like diabetes education programs, translated prescription information and additional diagnostic services. Cambridge Bay is home to the Cambridge Bay Health Centre, but more serious medical cases have to be sent over 500 miles away to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, for treatment. This makes Kitnuna Pharmacy a vital source of additional medical information that could potentially prevent a minor health concern from becoming a major heath crisis.

Prepared for Anything

The types of projects available for Kitnuna are always changing, and the corporation has become known for its ability to shift gears seamlessly from project to project. Equally important though is that Kitnuna’s capabilities provide the Kitkimeot community with important professional development and training opportunities.

Kitnuna’s staff can swell from 45 year-round employees to 200 professionals traveling across a 400-mile radius of company headquarters during the major construction season from June to October, and recent years have brought cutting-edge technologies to the region. Kitnuna was recently involved in the construction of an integrated alternative energy water treatment plant in Taloyoak, Nunavut, a small community of roughly 800 people. The new water treatment plant utilizes six solar panels and one windmill for power and officially came online in December 2011.

The project is estimated to cost over $5.4 million as additional infrastructure, access roads, an intake pump house, transmission line and emergency diesel generator were included. Though the plant was initially planned for a 2010 completion date, the late arrival of materials resulted in cold weather settling, setting construction back a full year. The new plant increases the regional water treatment capacity with better technology and the alternative energy sources will offset the plant’s electricity costs.

“The next few years look good in our region with a lot of general contracting opportunities in the resource sector,” adds Dion-St. Jean. “We have the right capabilities and regional focus to take on some serious growth potential.”

In the process Kitnuna will continue to provide remote communities with essential products and services to facilitate economic development. As an Inuit-owned company Kitnuna Corporation will see to it that all available opportunities are a step in the right direction for the region and its people.