Baffinland Iron Mines and Agnico Eagle have prolonged their policies to pay Nunavummiut workers who are staying home due to the pandemic, while TMAC Resources has temporarily laid off workers.
TMAC, operators of the Hope Bay property in the Kitikmeot, issued a round of layoff notices on March 30 and has scaled back its onsite workforce to approximately 120 personnel as the primary focus has shifted to processing gold ore stockpiles at surface, according to Alex Buchan, TMAC’s vice-president of corporate social responsibility. It was a couple of days later that the federal government announced its wage subsidy program. It turns out TMAC couldn’t have benefitted from that program anyway because the rules stipulate that businesses must suffer a decline in gross revenues of at least 30 per cent.
“In summary, federal relief programs came too late to influence our decision to slow down operations, and we would not be eligible for this employee-focused measure in any case,” Buchan stated. “TMAC and Hope Bay contractors are eligible for other federal relief programs if they are not already eligible for regular EI. We are actively assisting our affected workers apply for federal programs for Covid-19 affected staff.”
In the Qikiqtani region, Baffinland is giving Nunavummiut workers 40 hours per week at their regular hourly rate but has stopped paying additional allowances and premiums to employees who are not at the Mary River site, 160 km south of Pond Inlet.
Agnico Eagle, which has two active gold mines in the Kivalliq, was able to tap into the federal government’s 75 per cent wage subsidy program and is topping up the remainder to keep non-working Nunavummiut employees on the payroll.
“It is our objective to maintain the employment of our Inuit workforce throughout these difficult times as much as possible,” reads a statement from Agnico Eagle spokesperson Dale Coffin.
All three mining companies chose various dates in March to allow their workers from the territory to remain in their communities to reduce the risk of the coronavirus Covid-19 from infecting them or their families.
How much longer Agnico Eagle and Baffinland can weather these arrangements is unknown.
“The situation will be reevaluated and employees and contractors will be notified when the situation changes. The decision to return our Inuit employees and contractors to work will be made in partnership with the concerned authorities,” said Coffin.
Baffinland spokesperson Deborah Harron-Thomson expressed similar sentiment.
“Our goal in making this change is to help make our operation sustainable for the duration of the crisis and to avoid layoffs,” she said. “We continue to evaluate whether any additional measures are required and have committed to employees that we will be as transparent as we can about our decision-making.”
Agnico Eagle employs between 400-500 Nunavut-based workers. Baffinland didn’t provide a figure, but its workforce comprises approximately 14 per cent Nunavummiut. TMAC Resources has close to 60 Nunavut direct employees and contractors on staff.
Meanwhile, the mines continue operations with labour supplied by southern fly-in workers.