Agnico Eagle has set up a COVID-19 testing lab for employees at its Meliadine gold mine and has enlisted the services of a distinguished doctor and researcher to lead the project.

Close to 470 employees at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine, 25 km north of Rankin Inlet, can be voluntarily tested for COVID-19 on site as of Monday.
Photo courtesy of Agnico Eagle

Testing of employees, on a voluntary basis, was expected to start Monday, and the company is aiming to expand the initiative to its Meadowbank complex in the near future. Test results are expected to be returned within three to six hours.

By comparison, the Department of Health’s tests of Nunavummiut sent to Winnipeg for analysis take four to eight days to be completed. Asked whether there’s any possibility that Agnico Eagle could begin testing some Nunavummiut if the GN paid for it, a company spokesperson indicated that the pilot project is strictly for the approximately 470 workers at Meliadine and, eventually, for the 350 staff at Meadowbank.

The mine’s lab can confirm a positive test even if an individual doesn’t show any symptoms of the virus, according to Agnico Eagle.

Nunavut News inquired about the mining company’s protocol if an employee tests positive for Covid-19 and the response was that there’s an “internal procedure approved by our medical director that will guide the course of action in the event an employee is found positive on site. This procedure was drafted respecting Health Canada recommendations.”

No further details were provided.

Leading Agnico Eagle’s Covid-19 testing facility is Dr. Gary Kobinger, a professor in the Department of microbiology and infectious diseases and the director of the Research Centre on Infectious Diseases at Laval University in Quebec City. Kobinger was a co-developer of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus and a drug to treat people already infected with the often-fatal illness.

“Agnico Eagle has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace and our priority is to protect the health and safety of our employees and the surrounding communities, especially in a context such as Nunavut”, said Sean Boyd, Agnico Eagle’s CEO. “We are extremely grateful to Dr. Kobinger and his team for allowing us to be a pilot project for this new rapid COVID-19 testing lab as it provides us with an advanced level of protection for our employees and the communities.”

 

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Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...