COVID outbreaks at northern mine camps
Confirmed case at Gahcho Kué, Brucejack and Pogo operations North of 60 Mining News – February 12, 2021
Last updated 3/4/2021 at 3pm
Long before COVID-19 became a household name for a global pandemic, remote mining camps have needed to take precautions to ensure more common illnesses did not spread amongst the crewmembers that share common working, eating, sleeping, and lounging quarters. Now, they are tasked with battling a coronavirus that hides itself longer and is more severe than the common cold or flu.
And, despite extensive testing and transmission prevention protocols, COVID-19 continues to find its way into these isolated mining communities.
As of Feb. 8, Mountain Province reported that management at Gahcho Kué has confirmed two positive and six presumed COVID-19 cases at the mine.
The Northwest Territories government considers any cases of COVID-19 transmission within a closed facility such as a remote mining camp as an outbreak.
As a result of the confirmed cases, production related activities at Gahcho Kué have been suspended and the management team is working to ensure the COVID outbreak does not spread further or into the community.
The reports of COVID-19 cases at Gahcho Kué comes just one day after Pretium Resources Inc. reported a similar outbreak of the virus at its Brucejack gold mine in northern British Columbia.
As of Feb. 11, Pretium reported that it is managing 14 COVID-19 cases among employees and contractors at Brucejack, prompting BC Northern Health to declare an outbreak at the mine. As a result, Pretium has implemented enhanced COVID-19 protocols, including restrictions on travel to and from Brucejack until site-wide testing and an assessment by BC Northern Health can be completed.
"The health and safety of our workforce and surrounding communities remains our top priority," said Pretium Resources CEO Jacques Perron. "Following the information provided by BC Northern Health we have implemented travel restrictions, as part of our established outbreak protocols, to mitigate the risk of transmission and limit impacts."
The company said the 14 workers that are confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus are in isolation, remain in good health and have exhibited limited symptoms.
In partnership with BC Northern Health, contact tracing was undertaken to determine the potential for additional exposures. Close contacts, identified through the tracing process, have been notified and moved into isolation. Isolation protocols will remain in effect for the duration established by Northern Health, with regular monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms.
The company said off-site employees and have also contracted the virus.
In Alaska, Northern Star Resources Ltd. has been contending with an even larger outbreak at its Pogo gold mine.
"Our team managed more than 100 cases of COVID during the quarter," said Northern Star Resources Executive Chairman Bill Beament, referring to the final three months of 2020. "This has inevitable impacts on productivity at many levels."