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Omicron disrupts Agnico’s Nunavut operations

Agnico Eagle Mines’ Hope Bay gold operation in Nunavut. Credit: Agnico Eagle Mines

A spike in presumptive covid-19 cases at its operations in Nunavut has prompted Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX: AEM; NYSE: AEM) to send home its Nunavut-based workforce and temporarily ramp down operations for the remainder of the year. In light of the fast-spreading Omicron variant, the company says the precautions are intended to protect its local workforce and communities. The decision was made in collaboration with local health authorities. 

There have been a total of 13 presumptive covid-19 cases since December 18 at the gold miner’s Meliadine, Meadowbank and Hope Bay operations in Nunavut. The company says that its Nunavut-based (Nunavummiut) employees will be sent home immediately, while the remaining workforce will also be reduced gradually. Locally based workers who were scheduled to return to site will not come back for at least three weeks. All employees will continue to receive their pay.

The move comes as the Nunavut government announced restrictions on movement in and out of the capital of Iqaluit, capacity limits and some business closures after a suspected case of community transmission.

Agnico says it has increased its testing protocols for remaining workers at site. It will also be meeting with its local contractors to discuss similar measures for their Nunavummiut workforce. 

Last year, miners working in remote locations in Canada, including Agnico, sent home Indigenous workers and limited contact between fly-in workers and communities to minimize the risk of spreading covid-19. The highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus now threatens a wave of new disruptions, even after the roll-out of vaccines and vaccine mandates this year. 

Last month, Kirkland Lake Gold shareholders approved a merger with Agnico, set to be finalized in the first quarter of 2022. Kirkland Lake CEO Tony Makuch will be taking over as Agnico CEO, with current Agnico head Sean Boyd becoming executive chair.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)