To fight COVID-19, Nunavut mining company plans to screen workers
“We are in action”
Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., one of the major economic drivers in Nunavut, says the company continues to execute its existing pandemic plan to deal with the new coronavirus.
Soon these efforts will include screening measures for possible COVID-19 exposure in the Nunavut communities of Rankin Inlet and Baker Lake for all employees heading to the company’s mines in the territory, as well as for those leaving from Mirabel and Val d’Or.
In Nunavut, Agnico Eagle has between 800 and 900 workers each week working at its Meadowbank and Amaruq gold mines and 600 and 625 workers each week at its Meliadine gold mine.
Dominique Girard, Agnico Eagle’s vice-president for Nunavut, said Agnico Eagle is closely monitoring developments linked to the recently declared pandemic.
“We already have protocols in place when we have that kind of situation,” Girard said in a telephone call from Toronto.
“Now those protocols need to be adapted to the best practices. We are in action.”
Efforts include the creation of a new senior management task force, whose members talk daily. They are working in close collaboration with the Government of Nunavut to make sure that “we protect employees and communities,” Girard said.
Normand Ladouceur, Agnico Eagle’s manager of health and safety, described the company’s pandemic plan as “a very fluid plan,” which was developed with SARS and H1N1 in mind.
“But this is moving a lot faster,” Ladouceur said from Agnico Eagle’s mine in Kittilä, Finland.
Agnico Eagle’s approach to an infectious disease includes more cleaning, quick medical care and isolation on site.
Medical evacuation takes place if necessary, Ladouceur said.
The mine sites have masks and gloves, part of the ample supply of personal protective equipment used at the mine for different situations, he said.
But COVID-19 test kits are only available through public health authorities.
The first stage of the company’s pandemic response includes an awareness campaign of protective measures.
The second stage, slated to start soon, includes the screening of all employees heading to the mines.
This will include a questionnaire to identify those who have been in contact with someone who could have COVID-19 or who attended an event where the virus could have circulated.
Some Agnico Eagle employees who attended the Prospectors and Developers Association Conference in Toronto, where the company won an award for sustainable practices, are now self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms.
All PDAC attendees, some 26,000 of them, were asked to monitor themselves for symptoms of the new coronavirus for 14 days after an attendee tested positive for COVID-19.
None of the Nunavut Agnico Eagle employees who went to PDAC are in the territory at the moment.
This past week’s decision to cancel the Nunavut Mining Symposium, which was to have taken place later this month in Iqaluit, was “prudent” said Dale Coffin, Agnico Eagle’s senior corporate director for communications, social and public affairs.