An outbreak at Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River iron mine now numbers nine positive cases, the Government of Nunavut said Sunday. (File image)

Nunavut government reports COVID-19 outbreak at Baffinland’s Mary River mine

9 positive cases confirmed, ‘the risk to Nunavummiut in nearby communities is low,’ Patterson says

By Nunatsiaq News

A COVID-19 outbreak is occurring at Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River iron mine, the Government of Nunavut reported Sunday.

Nunavut’s chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said there are nine active cases at the mine, located roughly 176 kilometres southwest of Pond Inlet and about 1,000 km north of Iqaluit.

“All positive individuals are isolating and doing well. We are monitoring the situation, and will support the mine in its response if needed,” said Patterson in a GN news release issued Sunday.

“There are no Nunavummiut currently working at the mine, and Baffinland has maintained its protocols to restrict contact with communities. This particular outbreak has no impact on public health measures currently in place, and the risk to Nunavummiut in nearby communities is low.”

All non-essential travel to and from the mine, including scheduled shift changes, has been delayed until at least Friday, the GN release said.

The positive cases of COVID-19 at the mine site will be counted in the province or territory the individual is from, and will not be included in Nunavut’s counts, the GN said.

Baffinland notified the Department of Health of the outbreak on Friday, and swabs from the mine were sent to Iqaluit for confirmatory testing, the GN said.

The Nunavut lab has confirmed all nine test results, the GN said.

Baffinland has been using an on-site portable COVID-19 testing lab to test its employees at the mine.

All mine employees are tested upon arrival at the mine and a follow-up test is conducted five days after arrival, to help detect infections that may have been incubating.

Currently all mine staff are from southern Canada and fly directly to the site on northern Baffin Island.

Two cases were reported during the fall of 2020.

About 700 workers are at the mine site.

In March 2020, Baffinland sent approximately 300 Nunavut-based workers home, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to Nunavut’s communities.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Ivy C on

    Why are they not testing workers before they get on the plane to go to the mine??
    Find out if they’re sick prior to travel, stop the spread.

    • Posted by Rapid tests inaccurate on

      They test the workers once they get to the Mary River Aerodome with a PCR test that is more sensitive than most provincial tests. Testing for a hundred people takes around 12 hours to complete in the lab. Rapid testing is much quicker but has a high rate of false negatives which can be extremely detrimental to a remote mine and therefore not useful. PCR tests have a higher rate of false positives which lets them err on the side of caution. Any worker who tests positive on the first PCR test is put into isolation as well as all passengers that were sitting within 6 feet of that person. To my knowledge, there has not been a case of transmission to any of these passengers. A second follow up test is done 5 days after arrival to the mine site, if the virus was incubating on the first test and not detected, it is detected on the second test and all close contacts of that worker are isolated as well. This program has worked extremely well up until this point, but it seems guidelines may need to be tweaked to combat the new variants and prevent further spread.

      • Posted by david butler on

        would it be feaseable to test all workers just before they fly out to prevent further spread in other areas of the country

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