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Nunavut workers begin slow return to Baffinland's Mary River Mine

Nunavut employees and contractors at the Mary River iron mine, located 176 kilometers south of Pond Inlet, will start heading back to work next week, according to the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation.

Nunavut employees had been sent home due to fears of spreading COVID-19 to communities

An aerial view of the Baffinland Iron Mine at Mary River on North Baffin Island. (Baffindland Iron Mine Corp. )

Nunavut employees and contractors at the Mary River iron mine, located 176 kilometres south of Pond Inlet, will start heading back to work next week, according to the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation.

In a statement, Baffinland said the return to the worksite will be "completed in stages over a period of several weeks to ensure a safe and orderly transition."

The corporation said it continues to consult with the Nunavut Public Health Office and will continue to have "rigorous" COVID-19 testing protocols at the site.

"As we learn to manage COVID-19 and Nunavut begins to open up again, we believe the time is right to bring our Nunavummiut... back to the site," said Baffinland CEO Brian Penney. "They are valued members of our team whose presence significantly enhances our operation."

In early 2020, Nunavut employees at the mine were sent home to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to communities.

Then in May 2021, Baffinland temporarily suspended operations at the mine due to a COVID-19 outbreak. At one point, there were more than 20 active cases at the mine. Essential workers doing environmental monitoring and infrastructure maintenance stayed at the mine, while all non-essential staff were flown south.

Finally, in December 2021, Baffinland sent all on-site Nunavummiut home after six more employees tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after they arrived at the mine.

The corporation said all employees and contractors now returning to the site are — at minimum — double-vaccinated against COVID-19, and "many" have also taken a booster shot. 

The mine employees who have remained on-site while the others were sent home, who were all from southern Canada and were able to fly in directly to the site, are also all double-vaccinated. 

The mine typically has around 800 workers on site at any given time.

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