Nunavut mine goes into “lockdown” to reduce risk of COVID-19

Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine mine will see no movement of personnel except for emergency situations

Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine outside Rankin Inlet is going into “complete lockdown” on March 28 to help prevent the possible spread of COVID-19, the company says. (File photo)

By Jane George

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. says its Meliadine mine in Nunavut is in “complete lockdown” for the next 28 days, with no movement of personnel except for emergency situations, to help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

The measures, which take effect on Monday, March 30, were announced by the company following a social media uproar created by an employee of one of the mine’s contractors who made dismissive remarks about the mine’s efforts to screen for the new coronavirus.

That’s although the company told Nunatsiaq News that the measures had already been decided on beforehand.

These are the comments that angered many in Rankin Inlet who have been worried about the spread of the new coronavirus into their community of about 3,000. (Screen shot)

The spark for this weekend’s renewed outrage was a widely circulated exchange between an employee of Outland Québec-Tangmaarvik, which supplies kitchen and catering services at Meliadine, and a Facebook friend.

The employee said that he had just returned from the mining camp and that he had not been tested for COVID-19, “so the coronavirus is ganna spreand all over nunavut lol..”

The contractor has since fired the employee.

Agnico Eagle had already taken measures at Meliadine and at its Meadowbank complex near Baker Lake to separate Inuit communities from its southern employees, and it sent home its Nunavut-based workers to help address concerns about the potential spread of the new coronavirus.

But many in Rankin Inlet, located 20 kilometres from the Meliadine mine site, continued to worry about the traffic in and out of the mine from Quebec—even after Nunavut said transient mine workers were not subject to the quarantine measures announced on March 23.

Some Rankin Inlet residents recently blocked access to the road that leads to Meliadine over concern about exposure to COVID-19 from southern workers.

And in Baker Lake there was chatter on social media last week that mine employees were still out and about in that community, 110 kilometres from Meadowbank.

As anger over the social media post grew over the weekend, Outland Québec-Tangmaarvik issued a statement on Sunday saying it wanted to apologize for the “inappropriate comment regarding COVID-19 made by one of our employees and posted on social media.”

“Operating in collaboration with Agnico Eagle Mines, we are aware and well informed of all the preventive measures that were implemented from the start to prevent COVID-19 on Agnico Eagle sites in Nunavut.

“I want to assure you that the company has taken this matter very seriously and disciplinary action has been taken as a result of this violation of our Code of Ethics and social media policy.”

Dale Coffin, Agnico Eagle’s senior corporate director for communications, social and public affairs, said the former employee maintained he was just joking.

But Rankin Inlet North–Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie told Nunatsiaq News that “people were really worried.”

“The mines need to shut down completely, (my constituents have told me,)” she said. “We need to keep ourselves safe from this scary virus. No joke.”

To date, Nunavut has no confirmed case of COVID-19.

To keep it that way, after its Nunavut workers returned home, Agnico Eagle had put in an increasing number of preventive measures at the airport to ensure that workers coming from the south would not be in contact with Rankin Inlet residents.

Starting on March 30, no crew changes will occur at Meliadine over the next 28 days, the company said. On April 27, “the situation will be reassessed,” it said.

Only days ago, Agnico Eagle had decided to reduce activities at its Meliadine and Meadowbank gold mining operations in Nunavut after Quebec ordered a “pause” on all non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.

At Meadowbank, Agnico Eagle is also now taking additional measures to reduce the number of passenger flights.

Changes to working schedules also start on Monday. These will result in only four passenger flights per month to Meadowbank instead of the regular four times per week.

During the reduced production period at Meadowbank, everyone required on site will now be switched to a 28-day on, 28-day off work schedule, the company said.

Coffin said workers volunteered to make that change.

A similar rotation is also now in effect at Baffinland’s Mary River mine.

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(17) Comments:

  1. Posted by Noah on

    Get the guy fired, and fine him.
    The way they gona learn.

    • Posted by Say What? on

      Ummm, fine him for what?

      • Posted by Luke on

        For saving lives

  2. Posted by Sam on

    So this means workers from baker lake ,cannot go back to work at Meadowbank TIL April 27 another month off with pay

    • Posted by kelly on

      its the same foe everyone all over world.. not just north

  3. Posted by Luke on

    Even if it looks bad, because of him thousand of people wont get sick

  4. Posted by Kel on

    If he had brought up the problem with the proper authorities, would anyone have listened to him? Not likely. Whistle blowers aren’t popular but in this case it just sounds like he pointed out something that embarrassed Agnico Eagle. His communication skills leave a lot to be desired but he shouldn’t lose his job just because he got them to make some decisions they needed to make to save more at risk lives.

  5. Posted by It not a joke on

    Glad he said something about unprepared measures for covid 19. Workers need safe working condition. Mines make tons of money used the money you rich punks . Make workers safe. Watch out Nunavut theses companies are all about money. Big houses and large back accounts like the mine care about ur safety .

  6. Posted by Whoopty DOO on

    A flippant comment in a private conversation does not reveal some malicious intent, if anything the insight into the lack of proper screening is the outrage, the comment was silly but inconsequential in and of itself.

  7. Posted by ElVato514 on

    Wy did he loose is job this guy with his comment maybe he save the spread of the virus …this guy is a heroe
    …everywhere in th world the close ….why will be different overthere.. hope he will have is job back with excuses
    I will conctact the tv news to tell is story its not fair and i bet this guy love is job he just want the compagny to be safe many people are taking the plave from the city to overthere with no sanitary plan !!

  8. Posted by J.a. on

    So why is quebec running nunavut?? Is this not our land not another territory?

    • Posted by INUK on

      Because, Nunavut, does not have the technologie to make toilet paper.

  9. Posted by Anonymous on

    This guy just told the truth about the measures that’s weren’t done, and the company should have done to help prevent the spread of the virus, instead the company just kept the mine going. He is someone who loves to help the Inuit that’s for sure and ignorant people just let him go because he told the truth.

    • Posted by Anonymous on

      They were screening everyone before heading up to meliadine. If someone had symptoms or anything related to covid-19, they were sent home to self isolate.

  10. Posted by Sharo on

    Thanks Adam for being honest and being your self

  11. Posted by mixup on

    He misunderstood testing vs screening. There is no testing being done at any airports or mines in Canada. They are screening. And someone threw him under the bus by posting the screenshot of his misunderstanding. The mine might be incrementally safer now that it’s locked down for a longer rotation. That’s about it.

    • Posted by Wheels on the Bus on

      Exactly, totally threw him under the bus. He wasn’t the problem, someone just wanted to be famous. Welcome to Nunavut.

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