The Ekati diamond mine’s owners say new rules that would send unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave will be pushed back as federal guidance is unclear.
The NWT mine’s operator, Arctic Canadian, is set to join the owners of the neighbouring Diavik and Gahcho Kué mines in taking action regarding the employment of unvaccinated workers.
As reported by Cabin Radio on Saturday, the mines say they are compelled to change how they handle unvaccinated workers because Transport Canada is expected to begin requiring full vaccination for travellers on federally regulated commercial flights.
However, earlier this week, Transport Canada said it could not clarify to Cabin Radio whether the charter flights used to ferry workers to and from NWT mines will be subject to those rules.
A spokesperson for the federal agency simply stated: “All details will be announced in due course.”
In a new email to staff, Arctic Canadian said the federal government had “not communicated clear direction” regarding the changes to air travel requirements. As a result, the company said, mandatory vaccination for workers travelling to the mine will be pushed back.
Employees scheduled to head to Ekati on October 13 or October 14 can now travel to the site without full vaccination. Previously, unvaccinated workers had been told they would be unable to travel and would face months of unpaid leave.
“Arctic would like to ensure that workers have the opportunity to continue to work in their positions as long as possible before these changes come into effect,” the email, seen by Cabin Radio, read.
“We do expect mandatory vaccinations to be required at some point, if not by October 31, and we encourage our workforce to continue to be vaccinated. Vaccination is shown to be the best defence in fighting Covid-19.”
Whether Diavik and Gahcho Kué planned similar delays was not immediately clear. Gahcho Kué says it is dealing with unvaccinated employees “on a case by case basis.”
Arctic Canadian said if the federal government does mandate full vaccination for charter flight travellers by October 31, unvaccinated employees at the mine would be given flights home before that date.
“For those employees on upcoming rotations, we will communicate as information comes forward from the government,” the company’s email stated.
Correction: October 4, 2021 – 16:17 MT. De Beers, which owns the Gahcho Kué mine, says it does not necessarily intend to send all unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave – as this article originally suggested – but will instead handle each employee “on a case by case basis.”