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The Covid-19 pandemic had a tremendous impact on the health of some Kivallirmiut over the past year.

It shut downs schools and travel.

It also had an adverse effect on the bottom lines of local businesses. Baker Lake MLA Craig Simailak gave voice to that struggle in the legislative assembly in March.

“The economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is being felt throughout Nunavut, including my constituency of Baker Lake. The slowdown on mine operations in our region has had a domino effect on local businesses and residents,” said Simailak.

Patrick Tagoona can attest to that. He has been a contractor with Agnico Eagle for years, and 2020-21 has been nothing like the others.

“The one good thing, of course, is that with all the safety measures that Agnico had undertaken is that through the various ventures, we were able to still bring up southern staff to work at the mine. But it’s been a challenge for everybody, for sure,” Tagoona said, adding that it’s been hard for the local workforce not knowing when a return to work will be possible.

Agnico Eagle’s corporate hand was forced by public health measures through the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer in terms of restrictions on use of local services.

So the company attempted to be innovative where it could.

“What we tried to do, however, was to keep using some of the local contractors in a different manner,” said Martin Plante, Agnico Eagle’s vice-president of Nunavut operations.

For example, for the bus transportation between Baker Lake and the Meadowbank Complex, the mining company continued to use Peter’s Expediting as its service provider. The caveat was that there could no longer be local bus drivers behind the wheel due to the no-contact order between southern mining staff and Kivalliq residents, a move to prevent further transmission of the coronavirus into the communities.

“In other areas (of contracting), we kept as much as we could but it’s almost minimal,” Plante acknowledged.

Not all contractors in the region were hit hard, however. Due to the nature of the joint ventures in which he’s involved, Ryan St. John of Northern Networks Ltd. in Arviat said there has been little interruption in his working relationship with Agnico Eagle.

“We haven’t had really any hiccups or any issues. Our joint venture partners are a pretty essential part of Agnico Eagle’s operations,” he said referring to such associations as those he has formed with Sandvik Mining and Petro Canada. “Obviously Agnico and some of our partners have had to make some adjustments based on the (Covid) restrictions and changes that had to be made but everybody seemed to pull together and make it work.”

St. John gave the mining company credit for its willingness to help out on various levels.

“I think Agnico Eagle is a really good corporate citizen and they do a lot for the communities. Through the pandemic – through our crisis here – I think they’ve stepped up and supplied a ton of support,” he said.

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