North

Baffinland sending all Nunavummiut home over COVID-19 concerns

The mine says it's instructing Nunavummiut to not report to work and to remain in their home communities. Those at the mine site will be sent home.

Corporation instructing Nunavummiut to stay in home communities

Baffinland Iron Mines says the move is meant to 'eliminate the Baffinland site as a potential point of entry' for COVID-19 to Nunavut. As of Monday, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory.

Baffinland Iron Mines is sending all Nunavummiut employees home this week, over concerns about the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. 

In a press release, the corporation, which owns the Mary River Mine in Nunavut, says it is instructing Nunavummiut not to report to work and to remain in their home communities. Those at the mine site will be sent home. 

Workers over the age of 65 with underlying conditions will also be given the option to go home.

The corporation says this is to "eliminate the Baffinland site as a potential point of entry" for COVID-19 to Nunavut. As of Monday, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory. 

"There are no concerns or expected cases at this time, and that's the way we want to keep it," said Udloriak Hanson, vice-president of community and strategic development at Baffinland. 

We don't want people in the communities to feel concerned about operations at the site.- Udloriak Hanson, vice-president community and strategic development, Baffinland Iron Mines

The corporation says there will be no loss of pay, seniority, or job security from these measures. 

Before workers are sent home from the mine, they will be screened for COVID-19 to reduce the risk of transmission to their home communities.

Staff who live in the South will continue to work as usual to keep the mine operating. 

Additionally, all employees entering the mine will be surveyed for symptoms, recent travel history, and will undergo a mandatory temperature check before they are flown up.

On site, Hanson said they have increased cleaning and sanitation supplies. 

"We don't want people in the communities to feel concerned about operations at the site," Hanson said. 

Baffinland is also temporarily closing its head offices in Iqaluit to the public, as well as the community liaison offices in Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Igloolik, Pond Inlet and Sanirajak in Nunavut. Workers at those offices are now working from home. 

The Oakville, Ont., corporate office has also been closed. 

Baffinland says it will review the situation in two weeks to evaluate precautions.