A smile crosses Elder Elisapee Ootoovak's face as she receives her cleaning kit in Pond Inlet from Baffinland Iron Mines.
photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines

When Nunavummiut were facing a Covid-19 crisis, mining companies found ways to help.

Baffinland Iron Mines turned nearly $500,000 into 3,400 boxes of cleaning supplies, facemasks, food and other donations to residents in Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Iglulik, Pond Inlet and Sanirajak.

Mining company employees on standby in those communities played an integral role in distributing the donated supplies.

Cleaning kits from Baffinland Iron Mines are packaged and ready for shipping to Nunavut. More than 3,400 such kits were distributed over two occasions. photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines

“We thank them for their continued hard work,” said Heather Smiles, Baffinland’s manager of stakeholder relations. “Health and safety remain a top priority for Baffinland. We are committed to strong and healthy communities and to delivering long-term benefits to these communities.”

In the Kivalliq region, Agnico Eagle sent food hampers and N-95 facemasks, face shields and sanitizing products to various communities. Funding was provided to community radio programs to facilitate local communication and safety advisories during the pandemic.

“We knew at the beginning that the community was in need of some supplies, the actual (supply) channels were hard to provide. As we had flights still coming in, it was easier for us to help,” said Martin Plante, Agnico Eagle’s vice-president of Nunavut operations. “We’re glad to help out with regards to that.”

When coronavirus outbreaks occurred in Arviat, Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, Agnico Eagle again shipped food hampers to all the Kivalliq communities, along with 15,000 surgical masks and other personal protection equipment.

In total, the company spent more than $1 million on donations.

“When the pandemic started, I remember I was still working based on site. Everyone was afraid of what would happen,” Plante recalled. “We thought of ourselves as more than a mining business – we wanted to be partners, almost family. Supporting the surrounding communities for us was natural.”

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The generosity has not gone unnoticed.

On March 2, Baker Lake MLA Craig Simailak made a statement in the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut recognizing the mining company’s outreach.

“I am happy and proud to say that the Agnico Eagle Mines have the same kind of mindset where they try to provide assistance when and where they can,” he said.

He cited the company’s assistance with search and rescue operations and sponsorship of a Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization hunt that provided 61 caribou to Arviat, the territory’s hardest-hit community during the pandemic.

“I give my heartfelt thank you to the two organizations and to the people of Baker Lake that went out and hunted in the cold,” Simailak said.

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