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Nunavut mine employee tests positive for COVID-19

An employee working at a Nunavut mine has been confirmed to test positive for COVID-19. It was reported by Agnico Eagle on Monday as a presumptive case.

This is one of a handful of mines in Nunavut to report presumptive or positive cases in the past month

An aerial view of the Meliadine project operated by Agnico Eagle. An employee working at a Nunavut mine has been confirmed to test positive for COVID-19. It was reported by Agnico Eagle on Monday as a presumptive case. (Agnico Eagle)

An employee working at a Nunavut mine has tested positive for COVID-19.

It was reported by Agnico Eagle on Monday as a presumptive case. According to an email on Thursday from the company, the employee's test results were confirmed to be positive on Wednesday from the local public health authorities.

The test was validated at the Laboratoire de Santé Publique du Québec. The employee was working at the Meliadine mine near Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

The company says the individual was in strict isolation before receiving the initial results and was kept isolated until they returned home on a special charter on Tuesday. The individual is now under the care of local public health officials, the company says.

All employees who were on the Monday northbound flight with that employee were immediately placed in strict isolation in their rooms upon arriving at the mine site while contact tracing was conducted, according to the email.

There were 15 people who were in potential contact with the individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. The company says none of those people have shown symptoms and have all tested negative for COVID-19. Each will be tested again at the Val-d'Or or Mirabel facilities in Quebec on Friday.

Risk to community deemed 'very low'

The mine is about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet.

The email from Agnico Eagle says the company is working with the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer of Nunavut and is following its recommendations. The company says that office concluded that the risk of contagion is deemed "very low."

As an added precautionary measure, all employees who were on the Monday flight and remained on site will be tested again on Thursday and again on Saturday to "make sure the virus incubation period has run its course allowing it to be detected if present," the company said.

The email says the risk of transmission to the community of Rankin Inlet is also "very low."

The Meliadine mine had implemented precautionary measures in March to isolate itself from the community by having its Nunavummiut workers stay at home with 75 per cent of their base salary, to eliminate the potential risk of transmission of COVID-19 into the communities, the company says.

"As we enter the second wave of COVID-19, we want to reassure everyone that we continue to remain cautious and we are monitoring the situation very closely," said Frédéric Mercier-Langevin, general manager of the Meliadine mine, in a statement.

"Our decisions are based on the latest available scientific knowledge of the virus and we continue to collaborate with and follow the recommendations of medical experts and public health authorities to protect the safety of everyone on site and in the communities."

Other mines with COVID-19 cases

This is one of a handful of mines in Nunavut and the N.W.T. to report presumptive or confirmed positive cases in the past month.

There were seven presumptive positive cases reported at the TMAC Resources-owned mine near Cambridge Bay on Monday. Those results are still pending.

Nunavut has yet to have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, though the territorial government said the seven cases may be counted as the first should they be deemed positive, since transmission may have happened in Nunavut.

Two positive cases were also confirmed at the Hope Bay mine last month, and one positive case at Mary River mine southwest of Pond Inlet. They weren't counted toward Nunavut's cases because transmission happened outside of the territory. There have also been two positive cases at the Diavik Diamond Mine in the N.W.T.

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