With a much larger Inuit workforce than Baffinland Iron Mines, Agnico Eagle isn’t in a position to allow its Nunavut employees to stay home temporarily as Baffinland has chosen to do, said Dominique Girard, Agnico Eagle’s vice-president of Nunavut operations.
“Inuit employees are integrated and they play a key role, an important role in the operation — we’re talking between 400 and 500 people. All employees and contractors are essential to our operation so this is not an option we’re looking at for now,” Girard said Monday, adding that communication with the Kivalliq communities has been heightened at this time.
There are no cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 at the gold mines, according to Girard.
The company has taken several measures to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus at the mine site and in the surrounding Kivalliq communities, including the screening of its employees at the departures points for flights to the mine sites. That will include having a nurse taking workers’ temperature, said Girard. Staff will also be questioned about whether they’ve travelled during their time off and, if so, they will be placed in quarantine and not get on the plane, he added.
Approximately eight to 10 flights each transport close to 50 workers to Meliadine, Amaruq and the Meadowbank complex each week. Extra disinfecting of those planes is being undertaken as well.
Agnico Eagle is hiring experts on disinfecting areas to instruct staff at the mine sites, and the company will make those experts available to Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet, Girard said.
“We’re looking to how we could we help communities, how could we be helpful in their challenges there too,” he said, adding that non-essential staff travel into Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet has been eliminated. “That’s a really collaborative approach and we’re really happy with that close collaboration.”
The company already has an established protocol for dealing with communicable illnesses. Keeping viruses isolated is essential so that interruption of workers’ shifts is kept to a minimum, Girard explained.
In light of COVID-19, Agnico Eagle has held information sessions with workers to enhance awareness of safety and is preventing groups from gathering in places like the cafeteria.
Technical services performed by southerners capable of working remotely are now being carried out at home to reduce the number of people travelling to the Nunavut mine sites, Girard added.