Nine cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed among Baffinland Iron Mines’ staff at the Mary River mine site, the company announced on Sunday afternoon.
The affected workers are in isolation, as are others identified as potential close contacts.
“The recent rise in cases and incidents of more easily transmissible variants of COVID-19 across Canada has been considered in Baffinland’s preparations for such an eventuality at Mary River,” Baffinland stated in a news release. “It has developed a number of protocols to help manage the potential threat of this virus at site. This is the first incident of transmission at the Mary River Project.”
There is no contact between Mary River employees and Nunavut communities. Nunavummiut miners were sent home over a year ago due to the pandemic, in an effort to limit transmission of the virus.
“Baffinland has maintained its protocols to restrict contact with communities. This particular outbreak has no impact on public health measures currently in place, and the risk to Nunavummiut in nearby communities is low,” stated Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.
Baffinland identified its coronavirus prevention measures as including: pre-travel COVID-19 screening; separated and assigned seating in airport departure terminals; two mandatory on-site tests, five days apart, for every person arriving at site via two COVID-19 PCR testing labs; a fully prepared isolation wing and trained medical personnel on site; mandatory mask-wearing at all times; enhanced cleaning and hygiene protocols for all high-touch surfaces; increased availability of hand sanitizers; changes to indoor areas to accommodate physical distancing at all times, including single-direction traffic flow and two metres of floor markings; and regularly available, no-cost, virtual or telephone access to mental health support to assist all employees and their family’s in coping with COVID-19.
As a result of this COVID outbreak at the mine, the company has also decided to close common areas, such as cafeterias and move to take-out meals only; move all site-based office workers to remote work conditions; and delay any non-essential travel to and from site, including scheduled shift changes, to conduct further detection screening. Supplies continue to be delivered to the site as usual, however.