COVID guidance for Alaska placer miners
Extra preparation, precautions and planning are essential North of 60 Mining News – May 22, 2020
Last updated 9/26/2020 at 2:30pm
Alaska Department of Natural Resources has finalized COVID-19 guidance for placer gold miners planning to carry out operations on their claims in the state during the 2020 field season.
Placer and lode mining are both considered "critical infrastructure" under Alaska's essential services and critical workforce infrastructure order, which means that miners are considered essential workers in the state.
These workers, however, must comply with Alaska's existing mandates aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Extra preparation, precautions and planning is essential for placer miners to abide by the guidance and mandates aimed at allowing for 2020 mining as well as preventing the spread of COVID-19.
For placer miners coming from outside of Alaska, a 14-day quarantine is required coming into the state. This quarantine can be carried out at an individual's mining operation, but that person must go straight there without stopping for supplies.
Alaska Miners Association strongly advises those who deem their placer mine as a 14-day on-the-job quarantine location to plan accordingly. As out of state workers are mandated to go straight to their quarantine site without a stop to shop, advanced purchases of supplies delivered to that location will be necessary for those flying in. Miners driving to Alaska could bring what they need for the first 14 days with them but should be prepared to have additional supplies delivered in case they show COVID-19 symptoms during the quarantine period.
AMA has begun putting together a list of local suppliers able to expedite food and supply orders, which is available on the mining association's COVID-19 resource page: http://www.alaskaminers.org/ama-covid-19.
For anyone travelling to Alaska to carry out the essential work of mining or mineral exploration this year, a Traveler Declaration form is required by the state.
For miners flying into the state, these forms are being made available by airlines and are collected by TSA at the airport. Whether an individual is planning to drive or fly to Alaska, these forms can also be filled out online at https://ready.alaska.gov/Form.
Driving to Alaska for mining this summer could be challenging. Border crossings are restricted to essential travelers and AMA strongly advises that individuals planning to drive to Alaska for mining contact border patrol before leaving to determine border crossing eligibility and the documentation that would be needed – it is a long drive to Alaska only to be turned away or delayed at a border crossing.
For crews traveling within the state, a plan detailing the measures being implemented to avoid the spread of COVID-19 is required by Alaska health mandate 10.
For miners who have been in Alaska and who have been abiding by the state's "hunker down" mandates, you can purchase the food and supplies you need in your local area, as long as you maintain social distancing of at least six feet, cover your face, and follow other health guidelines, such as frequent handwashing.
Likewise, Alaskan miners may travel from their home to the placer operation utilizing their standard means of transportation but should maintain social distancing and wear a face covering if stopping to purchase fuel along the way. Wash or sanitize your hands immediately after purchasing fuel and before continuing to your placer site.
Miners traveling between communities must submit a plan or protocol outlining how you will avoid the spread of COVID-19 and not endanger the lives of the communities in which you operate.
"In general, good hygiene and safe, careful operations at your placer mine are more important now than ever before," Alaska DNR penned in its guidance. "Our medical system, while very focused on being prepared to assist a large number of COVID-19 patients, is still there to assist in the event you have any medical emergency. However, we are all trying to do our part to avoid the need for medical assistance so that much needed supplies of blood, masks, gloves and hospital beds remain available in the event that Alaska experiences a large spike in COVID-19 cases."
AMA further urges placer miners to have a plan in place to manage a COVID-19 case at their operations. This plan should detail protocols for isolating an individual that has coronavirus-like symptoms, protection and monitoring of other employees, sanitization, and other measures. These plans should be designed to protect the residents of nearby small remote communities and not rely on or exhaust the medical resources of those communities.
Both AMA and DNR remined placer gold miners to "be safe – stay healthy!"
The full DNR guidance for placer gold miners can be found at: http://dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/mining/Guidance-for-Placer-Mining-Operations-During-COVID-DHSS-FINAL.pdf.
Alaska's COVID-19 health mandates can be found at: https://covid19.alaska.gov/health-mandates/.
These and other COVID-19 resources for Alaska miners can be found at: http://www.alaskaminers.org/ama-covid-19.