For the fourth consecutive quarter, mining company Agnico Eagle has paid its Nunavummiut workers to stay at home to minimize risks related to the spread of COVID-19 to Nunavut communities.
During the first quarter of 2021, the company’s Nunavut-based employees collected $4.1 million in wages, representing 75 per cent of their base salaries.
“In Nunavut, the vaccination campaign is well advanced and discussions are underway with local authorities to discuss the reintegration of the Nunavut-based workforce. The company is in the process of establishing a reintegration plan taking into account logistics, testing and health protocols, as well as training plans required to ensure a smooth and safe reintegration. No timeline for reintegration has been set at the time of this news release,” Agnico Eagle stated April 29.
According to the company’s recently released 2020 Sustainability Report, Agnico Eagle employed 410 Inuit in 2020 compared to 442 Inuit in 2019 and 398 in 2018.
The report also reveals that Agnico Eagle directed $469 million – or 69 per cent – of its procurement spending for its Meadowbank Complex and Meliadine Mine in the Kivalliq region to businesses that are registered suppliers under Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, in accordance with terms set through Inuit Impact Benefit Agreements.
Record gold production
Agnico Eagle’s global operations achieved record gold production during the first quarter of 2021, at 516,804 payable ounces, including 12,259 ounces from Hope Bay’s Doris gold mine in the Kitikmeot, which the company formally acquired for $226 million on Feb. 2.
The miner has a target of 2,047,500 ounces of gold production for the full year in 2021, including its mines elsewhere in Canada, Mexico and Finland.
In 2020, the Meliadine Mine, 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, churned out 318,889 payable ounces of gold.
The Meadowbank complex, fed by the Amaruq deposit, 120 km northwest of Baker Lake, reaped 209,413 payable ounces in 2020.
Better than forecast production at Meliadine and Meadowbank in March helped contribute to the record first quarter quantity of gold.
The company reported quarterly net income of $136.1 million for January through March of this year, boosted by higher than average precious metals prices.
Exploration plans at Hope Bay
There’s $16.9 million set aside for drilling at Hope Bay this year, where three rigs will be based at surface and three will work underground.
Agnico Eagle plans to complete 69,600 metres of drilling, and 18,100 metres of that was completed during the first quarter, over 124 holes.
Hope Bay has three significant gold deposits: Doris, Boston and Madrid. The company intends to get a better sense of each deposit’s potential and will also test some other locations along the 80-km Hope Bay greenstone belt.
Early drill results from the Doris deposit include 9.8 grams of gold per tonne over 16.7 metres in the BTD extension and 11.6 grams of gold per tonne over 7.4 metres from the DCN zone.
“We significantly increased our exploration budget for 2021 and we are already starting to see positive results from this initiative, with drilling encountering high-grade gold mineralization at Hope Bay,” said Sean Boyd, Agnico Eagle’s CEO.
The production target for this year is between 70,000 and 80,000 ounces of gold at the Doris mine.
In April, Martin Plante, the company’s vice-president of Nunavut operations, told Nunavut News that the integration team was helping convert Hope Bay to Agnico Eagle’s standard business practices, including details such as switching emails and examining the site operation plan. The workforce at the Kitikmeot mine has ranged between 150 and 190 since it was scaled back due to COVID and former owner TMAC’s financial struggles.
Identifying synergies between Hope Bay and the two Kivalliq mines will be ongoing over the next several months, Plante said.
Early discussions with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association have been promising, Plante added.
“I’m really confident that we’ll have a positive long-term relationship,” he said.
Comment from the KIA wasn’t available prior to press deadline.