Nunavik’s Raglan mine plans to send northern workers back home

“These actions will slow down our operations as we support the process of sending back our northern employees”

Nunavik’s Raglan nickel and copper mine is still in operation, but with many new measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On Monday, March 23, the mine announced that all Nunavmmiut will be heading back to their communities. (Photo courtesy of Glencore Group)

By Jane George

Nunavik’s two mines along the Hudson Strait remain in operation, but they have boosted their preventive protocols in response to COVID-19.

As well, the Raglan mine said today that it will send its Nunavik workers home.

Starting on Monday, March 23, none of the employees and contractors from the 14 Nunavik communities who  are currently off site will return to Raglan mine site, and employees from these villages currently on site will return home in the next few days.

“These actions will slow down our operations as we support the process of sending back our northern employees to their villages,” the mine said on its Facebook page.

“We recognize this is a difficult and challenging time. It is more important than ever that we live up to our values and treat each other with dignity and respect. Please keep this in mind during this period of uncertainty.”

The Raglan mine employs some 950 full-time workers at the mine site, located between Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq.

Inuit employment at the zinc and copper mine, including contractors, is at about 15 per cent.

The move to send Inuit workers home follows similar actions by mines in Nunavut—TMAC Resources Inc., Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. and Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.

To date there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection at the Raglan mine, Amélie Rouleau, spokesperson for the Glencore Group-owned mine, said in an email.

But to keep COVID-19 at bay, Raglan has put in more screening measures for workers flying to the site, as well more cleaning measures for everyone on the flights and for the aircraft itself.

Raglan has also set restrictions on all non-essential travel and encouraged flex-work, including rotational and remote working where “necessary and possible,” Rouleau said.

“This will reduce the number of workers on site,” she said.

The Raglan mine already had a confinement protocol used when employees are sick on site. There is also an evacuation protocol in case an employee experiences symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, Rouleau said.

“In addition, we have the advantage of having a health service department with competent, qualified and trained employees to intervene adequately in such situations,” she said.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, Glencore has been monitoring the situation “very closely,” she said, taking the necessary measures to minimize the spread of the virus.

Those precautionary measures include the following:

• Advising workers to stay at home if they feel unwell and to seek medical advice and self-quarantine if they have symptoms consistent with those of COVID-19.

• Asking anyone who has travelled anywhere outside Canada in the past 14 days to self-isolate for 14 days and monitor their health, in accordance with federal guidance.

“Employees should also inform Raglan Mine’s Health Services Department if this is the case, whether or not they have symptoms,” Rouleau said.

The mine has also put in enhanced social distancing, hygiene and cleaning measures on site, such as:

• Cleaning hands before entering the cafeteria, and “we have individuals verifying that this is completed,” Rouleau said.

• Individual packaging of desserts and salads in the cafeterias.

• A reduction in the number of tables in the cafeteria and installation of tables in the gymnasium.

• Promotion of the use of takeout, which employees can take to their rooms.

• Closing of the gymnasium, including the section reserved for bodybuilding and cardiovascular training.

• Modifying the meetings held at the beginning of each shift in order to reduce the number of participants.

The other operating metals mine in Nunavik, located close by the Raglan mine, is Nunavik Nickel, which has also intensified its measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Chinese-owned mine, operated by Canadian Royalties Inc., is solely owned by its parent company in China, Jilien Jien Nickel Industry Co., Ltd.

About 500 employees work at the mine on alternating shifts, with no figures available on Inuit employment yet, as the Kativik Regional Government, which tracks these figures, is currently closed.

In a recent release, the company says it does an “aggressive triage” the day before flights to the site.

This sees passengers on the final manifest contacted directly at home and questioned about their recent movements to ensure people who have been travelling outside the country are placed in quarantine.

A member of the nursing staff is also present at the Air Inuit check-in “to intensify the triage and to identify travellers who may be symptomatic,” the release said.

All passengers are required to use antiseptic-gel sanitizers going in and out of the mine’s air terminal.

Meanwhile, organized social activities have been suspended. The convenience store, the Inuit kitchen and the gyms are also closed.

As well, more rigorous disinfection measures are in place within the camp, and cleaning and disinfection frequency has been doubled.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by ALOUPA KULULA on

    I hope we will not have to see the spread of c-virus across the country because travel in mine workers coming in from Ontario Quebec in which some areas which are starting to see a jump in numbers infected respreading scary this looks like a move that can bankrupt a multi billion dollar corporation

  2. Posted by Bob on

    Its inevitable, the virus has a incubation period of 2 to 14 days in which before your symptomatic your infecting others. Having worked at my current mine for some time, our workers are very slow to any sort of direction and defiant of even the most well meaning precautions and safety measures on site or off. As well to be honest the workers are not the healthiest people per capita for their age, this is going to be a an interesting time.

  3. Posted by Stay healthy on

    Sounds like the safest place to stay in right now.

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