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Workers at the Tata Steel Minerals iron ore mine in Schefferville, Que., have been sent home after a blockade was set up Thursday night. (Submitted) Workers at Tata Steel Minerals’ Schefferville mine, near the Labrador-Quebec border, have been sent home after a blockade was set up by members of a local First Nations community.

The blockade, set up Thursday night by the Innu community of Matimekush-Lac-John, is on the access road to the mine, which usually has about 400 workers but is now staffed by a skeleton crew of about 30, according to Armand MacKenzie, Tata Steel Minerals Canada’s Vice-President, Government and Stakeholders Relations.

"Our employees and contractors are all safe, and we have proceeded to fly them out from Schefferville to their hometowns for safety concerns," said MacKenzie, who said the blockade consists of about a dozen people.

"The local First Nations are expressing concerns about environment, about jobs, having more First Nations workers as part of workforce — a variety of concerns," he said. The local Innu community has employment and environment concerns regarding the mine, according to Tata Steel. (Submitted) "Concerns that we know, that have been expressed for the last several weeks, and that we are addressing in a timely manner, since we have weekly environmental meetings with the local First Nations. There’s no other company does that, not Inco, or whether it’s a company in Voisey’s Bay, or IOC, or ArcelorMittal, or Champion Iron Ore — we have weekly environmental meetings with the local First Nations, so that’s why we were a bit surprised about the turnout of how the events unfolded in recent days."

MacKenzie said the company does hire locally, including First Nations.

"On a yearly basis, there’s over 125 First Nations people from Schefferville that are currently working on the project," he said.

"It’s critical that we have support of the local communities to sustain our operations, and that’s why we are striving to achieve and have good working relationships with the indigenous communities, local First Nations communities. We need their support to make this operation viable in the long term."

The company has been meeting with the band council and hopes to have an update soon on the blockade, said MacKenzie.

CBC has requested comment from the band council office.

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