On May 2, the Baffinland mine in Nunavut made a troubling announcement: For the first time in the pandemic, COVID-19 was spreading inside its remote northern work camp. What the press release did not say is that at least one worker had tested positive for Delta, a highly transmissible variant never seen before in the territory.
The mine suspended operations, and workers that the company’s contact tracers deemed “low risk” started flying home. But soon after, some of those employees began testing positive — and Nunavut health officials realized the virus had spread further than initially believed.
Today, Baffinland’s Mary River mine is the site of one of Canada’s largest-known outbreaks of Delta, the variant of concern that first emerged in India and is 50 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant that fuelled Canada’s third wave.
The Star has learned that 106 people have tested positive at the mine so far, with 96 confirmed cases of the Delta variant.
The true scope of the outbreak, however, remains unclear — since the first case was identified, more than 1,200 Baffinland workers have scattered across the country, flying to every province and territory outside of Nunavut.