First Nations, miner respond to COVID-19
Tahltan, Newcrest protect Red Chris workers, communities North of 60 Mining News – April 3, 2020
Last updated 9/26/2020 at 12:44pm
In order to protect the health of its people and communities of northern British Columbia during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tahltan Central Government has been working closely with the other Tahltan Nation governments – Iskut Band and Tahltan Band – as well mining companies with operations in their territory.
Tahltan Nation said it has been meeting extensively with Newcrest Mining Ltd., majority owner and operator of the Red Chris copper-gold mine in Tahltan Territory, to prioritize the health of everyone at the mine and Tahltan communities.
Tahltan Nation said the COVID-19 protocols Newcrest had implemented already meet or exceed provincial requirements, and the Australia-based miner has agreed to an extensive package of further preventive measures.
In addition to protecting and supporting local communities, these measures aim to ensure that Red Chris can remain in operation and continue to provide jobs that support Tahltan members that work at the mine and their communities during this challenging time.
"The challenges we are facing as a nation due to the COVID-19 virus are unprecedented and we took everything into consideration when deciding the best path forward for the Tahltan people," said Tahltan Central Government President Chad Day.
The new protocols agreed to by Newcrest and Tahltan Nation include:
• Extended work rotations to decrease the frequency of crew changes and travel; and provide the workforce with a period of "isolation" that exceeds the incubation period of the virus, ensuring they can return to their homes without the requirement for further isolation. Tahltan said these extended rosters present new challenges such as employee fatigue, which could lead to an unsafe working environment. Rest days and other fatigue management measures may be implemented as part of the ongoing virus transmission and fatigue risk analysis.
• Newcrest will provide additional medical personnel in the three Tahltan Territory communities – Dease Lake, Iskut and Telegraph Creek – for the duration of the coronavirus emergency.
• Newcrest will work with the Tahltan Nation to support the provision of basic groceries to the Iskut, Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek communities. In addition, Newcrest will help source health and sanitary supplies pending availability and lead times.
• Tahltan Nation Development Corporation will match Newcrest employee commitments. Other contractors working on the Red Chris site are encouraged to do the same.
"It is a testament to the relationships and trust between our operation and the Tahltan Nation and communities that in these stressful periods we have been able to quickly work together and navigate this crisis effectively," said Red Chris General Manager Mark Adams. "We agree on the best path forward based on what we know at this stage and this is a thoughtful and staggered approach which can accommodate everybody as best we can."
Tahltan Nation has established a COVID-19 emergency management team to break the chain of coronavirus transmission, flatten the outbreak curve and prevent the virus from reaching the territory. Red Chris has representatives on this team to help where needed and provide information on mine developments.
"Working alongside Newcrest ensures we have robust safety measures at the mine site, we can utilize their capacity to keep our communities safe, and our Tahltan workers and communities will not have to face a myriad of further challenges and safety risks that would follow if a massive layoff were to take place," said Day. "Newcrest and Tahltan leadership will continue to work closely and collaboratively through this difficult time."
Tahltan Nation is also monitoring coronavirus-related protocols and developments at Pretium Resources Inc.'s Brucejack gold mine, also in Tahltan Territory.
So far, no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the community or mines located in Tahltan Territory.
A special webpage to inform Tahltan Nation member about COVID-19 and to provide government and industry updates related to the virus has been set up at: https://tahltan.org/covid-19/.