Nunavut’s Baffinland gears up its crisis management plan for COVID-19
Nunavut workers have been told not to report to work; those on site will return home this week
(Updated, 11 a.m.)
Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. has clamped down on travel to and from its Mary River iron mine site in an effort to stave off the spread of the new coronavirus.
To date, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut, the company said today.
“However, given the possible risk of infection throughout the North and more specifically, our neighboring communities with whom we share the closest relationship, we are making arrangements to limit the potential exposure of our Nunavummiut (Inuit and non-Inuit in Nunavut) employees to the coronavirus,” said the company.
To do this, Baffinland said it is temporarily instructing all Nunavummiut to not report for work and to remain in their home communities.
“Nunavummiut currently at site will return home during the coming week,” Baffinland said in its release.
There will be no loss of pay, seniority, or job security, the release said.
Baffinland’s workforce is drawn from across Nunavut and elsewhere across Canada, where there are COVID-19 cases.
Sending Nunavut workers home “will help eliminate the Baffinland site as a potential point of entry for COVID-19 into the Arctic,” the company said.
On Sunday, March 15, the Qikiqtani Industry Ltd., an onsite contractor, announced that Baffinland was planning to send its employees, Inuit and non-Inuit, who live in Nunavut, back home.
And all of the contractor’s employees are to remain at home for at least two weeks, the Inuit-owned company release said.
“There will be no loss of wages or impact on the job security for QIL employees,” the release said.
Baffinland’s office in Iqaluit and Community Liaison Offices in Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Igloolik, Pond Inlet and Sanirajak will be temporarily closed to the public.
Baffinland said it planned to review the entire situation again in two weeks.
“Baffinland believes that these preventive measures are important to protect Nunavut communities that may have limited public health infrastructure and resources to respond to an outbreak,” the release said.
Baffinland’s Oakville corporate head office employees who are able to work from home will also do so starting today.
“The health and safety of our stakeholders and communities is our top priority. We are taking the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously and Baffinland is very aware of the risks associated with this outbreak,” its director of health, safety, environment, security and training, Timothy Sewell ,told Nunatsiaq News.
“We have robust emergency and crisis management plans in place and our approach to managing and mitigating these risks will correspond with the threat it poses to our employees, contractors, business and communities.”
Baffinland said it has all the emergency medical supplies and equipment required to assist with managing COVID-19 at its Mary River operations.
The equipment includes additional hand-washing stations, sanitizers and sterile wipes, N95 protective masks and medications.
The company also said it has put into effect a “stringent increase in employee hygiene practices and an increase in the sterilization and cleaning of all camp and office facilities.”
Equipment operators practise daily sanitation of shared equipment, Baffinland said.
There’s also an entire wing of the camp residence facility at Mary River that has been isolated and sterilized.
Protocols are in place to ensure any employees displaying symptoms of COVID-19 will be isolated and monitored until direction from Public Health Agency of Canada is received.
Before and after every charter flight to the site, the terminal and aircraft cabins are cleaned.
Baffinland said more preventive measures are in the process of being implemented, such as the screening of passengers at all airport facilities prior to travelling to site operations, and hiring more physician assistants to accompany community flights and to perform pre-flight health checks.
“A pre-flight health check prior to leaving site will be initiated to ensure we are not introducing any infection risk to the communities,” Baffinland said.
The company said its crisis management plan is its guideline for preparing for and managing the effects of COVID-19.
Actions will continually be reassessed and adjusted, as new information becomes available, it said.
“As circumstances evolve, please know that all of us at Baffinland are doing everything we can to manage and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the safety of our employees and the communities we work in, in mind,” Baffinland said.