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

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. says it’s putting its emergency and crisis management plans into effect to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

By Jane George

(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.”

Overall, to date, Baffinland’s efforts to keep out the new coronavirus have been similar to those underway at other Nunavut mining companies, such as TMAC Resources Ltd. and Agnico Eagle Mining Ltd.

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.

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Jimmy K on

    All the mines in the arctic should only allow essential personal on there sites! Stay inside and save a life

  2. Posted by Jimmy on

    Awesome for baffinland to send all the inuits home with pay!
    Very smooth move.

  3. Posted by Erica on

    What about the other employees on site? There are more employees from other provinces outside of those from Nunavut working there. They all have communities, families, and loved ones waiting for them at home. How is it fair to only send home the employees from Nunavut and the age 65+ workers? We can see how crazy this virus has affected many parts of the world. Everyone should be sent home now while there is still time. Why would you wait any longer? Things are only getting worse. It is hard enough on anyone’s mental state to work in camp setting, harder are those working in a camp setting in complete isolation in northern Canada. But, to work in such conditions, seeing the world in panic, and noticing that things are only getting worse? It just doesn’t seem fair to only be sending home select employees. All of them deserve a chance at seeing their loved ones at a time where work is not the priority.

  4. Posted by Danny on

    Perhaps in a parallel world it could have been done the opposite way: allow the Inuit to run the mines while stopping all traffic from the South. Ah, in the future it may be so.

    • Posted by Jimmy on

      Groceries all come by plane etc so you’re still in contact with southerners.
      Parts come by plane or boat. You’re still in contact with the south.

      Unfortunately Inuit do not have the resources or training to “ run “ the mine.

      The government of Nunavut and the ICE cant even get 50% of Inuit in their own organization and government when they have billion of dollars for training etc.

  5. Posted by Gerald Granger on

    To get to work I flight from three to four airport to get to Montreal

  6. Posted by Terry werbiski on

    Baffinland should pay for everyone to stay home they think they are doing right but they are not

  7. Posted by Disbeliever on

    Reading this article is a joke.
    To say that sanitation has been stepped up is fine.
    It’s just too bad that so many on site still can’t grasp the basic concept of personal hygiene. There are plenty of dispensers around, yet dozens will still walk into the dining hall or common areas without using it. People still don’t know how to cover a cough!
    It doesn’t matter how hard cleaners work, if no one is going to enforce the basic rules of hygiene, and instead expect memos and posters to do the job, then it’s just a matter of time until the medical clinic sees an influx of illness!

  8. Posted by blink on

    who’s gonna keep up camp maintenance and cleaning duties , QIL does this work , cant wait to see the conditions at the matrix when I get to site next week .

  9. Posted by K. Dawson on

    As Canadians are told today by PM Trudeau that we should all stop our cross country travel to protect fellow Canadians, this mine, as other isolated camps should shut down immediately. Air travel from all areas should be limited to emergency and special circumstances. The almighty dollar is second place right now until we get this rampant virus under control. For the sake of our fellow citizen, your employees and our special northern communities Baffinland should close down for a limited time right now. The rest of Canada is watching, show that you are a compassionate and caring business that wants to help our country at this time.

  10. Posted by M. Ferguson on

    How do Baffinland employees from southern Canada get to and from the mine site? If they stop in any Nunavut community en route, they are risking the health and lives of all Nunavummiut, because they could bring COV-19. If any mine employee gets very sick, where will they be treated? At the mine in Pond Inlet, Iqaluit, or will they be flew immediately and directly to the south? What if they need ICU care, could they be flown directly to the south? Will provinces accept sick patients from the mine? This article does not ask important questions. It just uses Baffinland’s press release. Nunavut needs an independent press that asks and answers important questions, for the sake of all Nunavummiut!

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