Agnico Eagle declares first positive case of COVID-19 at Nunavut mine
Infected worker sent back south on Sept. 29
A COVID-19 case has been confirmed at the Meliadine gold mine near Rankin Inlet, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. said today.
It’s the first confirmed positive case of COVID-19 at Meliadine. Agnico Eagle had announced earlier this week that the same worker had a presumptive positive case of the virus.
“The company can now confirm that it received official notice on Sept. 30 from the local public health authorities confirming that the Meliadine employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The test was validated at the Laboratoire de Santé Publique du Québec,” said a statement emailed early on Oct. 1 by Agnico Eagle spokesperson Melissa Bradley.
On Monday, Sept. 28, the worker boarded a northbound flight at Montreal’s Mirabel airport and was tested at the company’s testing lab in Val-d’Or, Agnico Eagle said.
“The individual was in strict isolation prior to receiving the initial results as per the company’s protocol and was kept isolated until they returned home on a special charter on Sept. 29. The individual is now under the care of their local public health,” the company said.
All employees on the Sept. 28 northbound flight were immediately placed in strict isolation in their rooms upon arriving at the mine site while contact tracing was conducted, the company said.
The tracing analysis identified 15 people who were in potential contact with the individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, the company said.
“These 15 employees were safely extracted from site as a preventive measure on Sept. 29, on a separate charter flight to the south,” Agnico Eagle said.
“They have shown no symptoms and have all tested negative to COVID-19. They will be tested again at our Val-d’Or or Mirabel facilities on Oct. 2.”
Agnico Eagle said it is working with Nunavut’s office of the chief public health officer and is following its recommendations.
“Due to the robustness of Agnico Eagle’s COVID-19 preventive measures in place at its mine sites and during transportation, the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer concluded that the risk of contagion is deemed very low,” the company said.
But as an additional precautionary measure, all employees on the Sept. 28 flight who remained on site will be tested again on Oct. 1 and on Oct. 3.
The testing will allow COVID-19 to be detected if present, the company said.
“As we enter the second wave of COVID-19, we want to reassure everyone that we continue to remain cautious and we are monitoring the situation very closely,” said Frédéric Mercier-Langevin, Meliadine’s general manager.
“Our decisions are based on the latest available scientific knowledge of the virus and we continue to collaborate with and follow the recommendations of medical experts and public health authorities to protect the safety of everyone on site and in the communities.”
The company undertook measures in March to isolate the mine from the community by having its Nunavut workers stay home while being paid 75 per cent of their salaries to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.