Agnico Eagle begins COVID-19 testing at airport before employees fly to Nunavut
All southern employees must be tested before boarding charter flights
A mining company that operates in Nunavut will begin testing all its southern employees for COVID-19 at the airport before flying up.
Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. announced on July 2 that a new testing laboratory has been installed at the Val-d’Or and Mirabel airports.
Non-Nunavummiut employees at the mines board charter flights at the Val-d’Or airport to get to Agnico’s Meliadine and Meadowbank mines in the Kivalliq. Cargo flights travel to Agnico Eagle’s Nunavut mine sites from the Mirabel airport, near Montreal.
Every employee boarding a flight must be tested for COVID-19. If they refuse, they will not be allowed to board, Martin Plante, Agnico Eagle’s vice-president of Nunavut operations, said at a news conference on July 2.
Test results will be available the same day, Plante said. All employees arriving at the mine will be placed in isolation until they are cleared, Plante said.
“The goal in implementing the new testing, for us, is to get the results as fast as we can,” Plante said.
In April, the company started conducting COVID-19 tests for its employees at its Meliadine mine near Rankin Inlet using a mobile lab. That project was led by Dr. Gary Kobinger, the director of the Infectious Disease Research Centre at Laval University. Kobinger also heads the Val-d’Or laboratory.
“If a positive case were to be found, isolation, tracing and extraction protocols are in place following the Quebec Public Health guidelines and recommendations,” Plante said.
To date, the company has completed more than 4,600 tests. All came back negative, Plante said.
For Meadowbank employees, tests are sent to the Meliadine site.
In March, all of Agnico Eagle’s Nunavut employees were sent home. The company is providing those employees with a 75 per cent base salary, which was recently extended until July 11. Nunavut employees will not return to the mines at this time.
Agnico Eagle worker tests positive for COVID-19 at Mirabel office
Officials also said one of Agnico Eagle’s contract employees recently tested positive for COVID-19 its office at the Mirabel airport.
On June 22, the employee went to Mirabel to get tested prior to travelling to Finland for work. The employee was wearing a mask at all times and was practising physical distancing, Agnico Eagle said.
The individual was asymptomatic. The test detected a “signal for a positive case of COVID-19,” officials said. The test was sent to Quebec’s public health laboratory, which confirmed the positive case the following day, June 23.
Public health officials instructed the employee to go into isolation in a hotel in Saint-Jérôme, Que.
“This individual did not embark on any of the northbound flights,” Plante said.
The employee was in the Mirabel facility from 6:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. on June 22 and had no contact with any other employees or contractors on site. It was established that 12 people were on site at that time and all were sent home to complete a 14-day isolation period. They were tested again on June 26, and the results were negative. They will be tested again before returning to the site.