Nunavik’s Raglan mine reopens despite outrage from Makivik Corp.

“We are very concerned about the spread of the coronavirus as a result of reopening the mines”

Since Quebec gave the go-ahead to reopen the province’s mines last week, the Raglan mine in Nunavik has moved out of care and maintenance. (File photo)

By Jane George

Nunavik’s Raglan nickel mine is reopening, following its closure on March 24 due to Quebec’s COVID-19 business shutdowns.

The decision follows Quebec Premier François Legault’s announcement on April 15 that mining activities in the province could be allowed to resume gradually.

But Makivik Corp., which represents Nunavik Inuit, says it is “strongly opposed” to the resumption of mining activities in the region, which has so far seen 14 cases of the new coronavirus.

“This is very dangerous. The Inuit elected officials in the communities and in the different regional organizations need to be heard and need to make the decisions and call the shots,” Makivik President Charlie Watt said in a news release on Friday, April 17.

“Nunavik cannot and will not be governed by civil servants who may be tempted to use the pandemic to empower themselves.”

Makivik has written numerous letters to Quebec about various issues related to the pandemic, “and they have not responded … not even an acknowledgement of receipt,” Watt said.

Watt said Quebec can’t ignore Makivik and has to fully respect the spirit and intent of the 1975 land claims agreement, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

“The pandemic does not mean there is no longer a duty to consult with Inuit,” Watt said. “We are very concerned about the spread of the coronavirus as a result of reopening the mines. We don’t believe the conditions will completely protect the Inuit population from coming in contact with potentially infected people returning to the region.”

Céliane Dorval, a spokesperson for the Raglan mine, which is owned by the Glencore Group, defended the decision to resume mining operations.

“Progressively, over the next few days, we will restart operations while ensuring the health and safety of our workers. No compromises will be made on this aspect,” she said on Friday, April 17.

“We will continue to ensure measures related to intensive cleaning, disinfection, reorganized work to limit contact between workers, and isolation in the event a staff member or supplier develops symptoms.”

As well, Inuit workers from Nunavik, who will not yet be returning to the mine after being sent home in March, will continue to receive their regular salary until May 4, she said.

“It is essential for us to find solutions and to make sure these employees will want to come back to work when the time comes,” Dorval said.

About 100 of the mine’s Inuit employees live in the south, she said.

“As they are currently not residents of Nunavik, they will be allowed to go to the site,” she said.

In order to limit contact, Raglan’s Deception Bay camp is closed to Nunavimmiut for now.

“However, they can go to their camps, which are quite far away from our facilities,” she said.

The mine is also planning to launch on-site testing for COVID-19, similar to that now in place at the Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.’s Meadowbank mine.

“This preventive measure is in addition to all other existing measures at the mine site. In the event of a positive case, swift identification would allow contact tracing, isolation of sick individuals and medical evacuation if required, which will help shield the local population from transmission of the virus,” Dorval said.

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(17) Comments:

  1. Posted by Lucassie Usuituayuk Usuituayuk on

    If that’s the case, open all the shut down businesses and corporations that are closed, including gatherings and such and church services. Covid-19 is benefiting already.

  2. Posted by Worker on

    It seems Inuit in Nunavik wont be allowed to go to work well past May 4. The southerners do not pass through an Inuit community to get to the mines which is good. A part of me envy those Inuit able to go to work now simply because I am sick of staying home but its early and safety first.

  3. Posted by Mine worker on

    I ll wait till may 4th to get back to work, sitting around is boring.

  4. Posted by Davie on

    southerners are coming to aem in the masses while inuit stay home unemployed. the original agreement said we should be 50% and now they are running 0% while wanting to dump “emergency” waste into the lake during the covid pandemic. quite special. hopefully the KIA and HTO, GN, etc wake up soon. Thank you.

  5. Posted by Operational on

    Do everything to keep this mine operational.
    It is the only mine in Nunavik and it employs Inuit.
    I support the minimal action to keep it from going under.

  6. Posted by No approval needed on

    At which point did, “duty to consult” become “seek approval”?

  7. Posted by Just saying on

    How many cases of Covid19 in Nunavik ? and which airline brought them?

  8. Posted by Let’s get along on

    A pandemic crisis will bring out the best and worst of people. Doesn’t matter if elected or civil servants. Seems we are still waiting for the best from some

  9. Posted by TGC on

    One has to bend the ear of the directors at the head office in Geneva or is it London these days. And good luck with that.

  10. Posted by Let those having the appropriate knowledge and leadership do their work to the benefit of all on

    When I am sick I do not rely on politician, I consult my doctor and follow is recommended treatment. When I have tooth decay I do see a dentist not a politician to fix it.

    In a pandemic I trust more non-elected leader having stong knowledge in medecine, epidemiology and strong leadership working for the benefit of all than elected leader with few if any knowledge in those matter to make relevant decision.

    In this pandemic, the so called non elected civil servant are doing the best to keep us safe. Amongst other thing by making shure that Raglan worker ill never be in contact with Inuit Village. So there is no danger.

    Charlie Watt claiming the mine re-opening as dangerous in pure demagogy.

    This is also well known, that Makivik is actually making many political pressure to re-open construction in the villages as soon as possible to fix the lodging shortage. How having southern workers living among us in village will be safer than opening a mine where no employees will be in contact with us ?

    M Watt, your goal of having a regional government is absolutly legitimate. No need to promote false information in the process.

    Please keep in mind that your so called non elected civil servant, doing a great job, where, by the way, hired by elected civil servant such as you and mandated to do the job they are doing.

    They were hired on the base of there ability and sufficiant knowledge to face crisis menacing our health, meaning they have the knowledge, the leadership and legitmacy to tell us what to do.

    Discrediting them such as you are doing is not helpfull for them to manage the situation. On top of the numerous problem of all sorts they are facing, the have to cope with the false rumor you are dangerously spreading.

    So please let them do their work without interfering and keep working at having the legitmate regional government you hare longing without spreading false information.

    Thanks

  11. Posted by Who are the experts? on

    I heard Charlie Watt on radio this morning. Voicing his opposition to the opening of the mine. Even thou I agree with Charlie Watt, I’m inclined to let the experts in the Health Department make the decision as by the expert knowledge. I’m not really sure what that means on the end of the day. It could mean the right decision was made or that Nunavik is worst for the mine having open. We must adhere to our expertise in all what’s going on with covid-19. We must caution against those that have a strong suggestive plan without the knowledge and expertise. Charlie Watt is not in health care, and that’s the bottom line. Like I say! I’m in agreement with him of concerns about the negative consequences, but I’m also in support of the health experts. Surely the Quebec government has made the decision to open the mine based on all advice from the health department. If the government did not consult the health department on this, then Charlie Watt needs to prove and challenge his concerns via that uncertain decision. Otherwise let the mine continue to be.

  12. Posted by What’s does Nunavik Health think? on

    I’m not hearing any direct concern from the Nunavik Health Board on this issue. Surely if there were threats to Nunavik population with opening of the mine, the health board would have red flags up. I didn’t see any concern written anywhere about that. I didn’t see any approval either, but with the public knowledge that the mine is open, the board would have its concern out by now, if there was a concern.

  13. Posted by Makivik do onto us. on

    Makivik is otherwise silent today on this crisis. I would like to see the corporate leadership get more involved with the health board, Canadian rangers etc. Be more proactive in the preventive strategies. They’re in a good position to promote programs to the population. Wouldn’t it be nice if they sat up the tents with the rangers, you know things like that, to get us all the confidence that we’re supported in all aspects. Plus give out a bit of money to beneficiaries, like is done in other places. What we don’t need is the leadership interference in health care.

    • Posted by Nobodies Don’t Make Decisions on

      Ummm, in what way would you expect the leadership of Makivik to have anything to do with the military? They have no status, zero, none.

      The provincial government makes requests to the feds if they need military help, or else the feds use the military as they see fit, with or without provincial consent.

      Private corporations like Makivik = nobodies when it comes to military deployment decisions.

  14. Posted by Opened on

    Does anyone know what it means that Raglan mine has moved out of care and maintenance since it opened?

  15. Posted by Land claims on

    Watt indicated that Quebec government has not responded to his letters. He goes on to say respect for the land claims agreement. I’m not sure how a health issue like this crisis gives any right to Charlie Watt of any one else in respect to land issues. This is health, it has nothing to do with land agreement. I can see why the Quebec government has not responded! It’s because Charlie Watt is making no sense to this situation. Charlie wouldn’t go into one of our hospitals in a Nunavik, and start screaming at the doctors and the nurses about their medical decisions, so what gives him the authority to do it with the provincial health board. It’s the health board that behind the decision to open the mine, all due to health.

  16. Posted by Federal $$ on

    Makivik was allocated over 11 million dollars from the Federal indigenous community support fund to assist with the covid19 pandemic. Shouldn’t they perform their mandate/duty to consult the population and put this money to good use?
    If not, where will the money be directed?

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