De Beers has sent home workers at its Gahcho Kue diamond mine as a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19.

“Fifteen Gahcho Kue mine employees and contractors who live in small, primarily fly-in communities have been requested to return home or to remain at home as a precautionary step to reduce the chance of transmission of COVID-19 into these communities,” company spokesperson Terry Kruger said on Friday.

The mine remains in operation.

“These workers live in Whati, Gameti, Lutsel K’e, Jean Marie River, Tulita, Fort Good Hope, Deline and Fort McPherson, each of which is only accessible by air or is more than three hours by road from advanced medical help.

“De Beers Group recognizes that the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing. By asking these employees and contractors to return or remain at home for the next month, the company is minimizing the risk of transmission to some of the NWT’s remote communities.”

The move is the most recent measure taken since the end of February to safeguard the health of employees.

Other measures include limiting access to the mine to only those required to support operations, temperature screening of everyone flying to the site, setting up of quarantine areas, added sanitization of high contact areas, encouraging any staff who are feeling unwell to call in sick and mandatory hand washing for anyone entering the dining area, and other restrictions to limit items needed to be handled by staff.

De Beers joins Dominion Diamond Mines and Diavik in taking extra measures to guard against COVID-19. Dominion suspended operations at its Ekati mine on Thursday and Diavik sent home on Friday 50 employees who come from remote communities.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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  1. This is so wrong!!!! My husband is currently at work at this Debeers mine … he will be coming back home next week as he’s rotation ( 2 weeks in-2 weeks out) is completely
    He is so worried for us, his family as he will be taking 3 flights to get home.
    Prior to get home … he will taking one flight from the mine to Calgary then a layover in Calgary of 20 hrs
    Next flight ; from Calgary to Toronto with a layover of a few hours
    Last flight; from Toronto to his last stop
    And, a couple of hours to drive home

    This is if all the air providers still flies!

    Once my husband get home safe, he will need to be in self isolation for a week or so to make sure he has not exposed to the covid-19 on his way home or at work!

    Then, he need to get back to work 11 days once his home …??
    It’s really heart breaking to us, his family and for him! When will be the next time we see him … see him healthy … or will we get the chance to hug him before some thing terrible happens to him or us?
    Where is the humanity…. is a diamond really worth this … or like the company say; diamond is forever?????Right?

    On the other note, this article is NOT mentioning what’s really happening at the mine …. the people who they are referring to is mostly manager, supervisor … 4/3 employees ( Monday-Thursday) is their health really more important than my family??? I guess so … for them!

    Plus, everyone at site is left at the mine without any informing provided to them or future plans for the company… the moral is very very low!
    I really don’t know where to start with this!

    My husband has been happily employed with DeBeers for more than a decade … when time gets really hard this is went we see are true colours!
    This is when we have to start and revaluate our life plans …

  2. Around the world whole countries are shutting down, closing borders and imposing quarantine. In Canada, several provinces have declared states of emergency. The Northwest-Territories has declared a public health emergency and has just shut down its border prohibiting all travel “by air, land and sea” with limited exceptions. At most of the diamond mines, it’s business as usual.
    People will continue gathering, from all over the country, sit shoulder to shoulder on a flight destined for the remote mine site. Hundreds of people will continue to work and interact with each other, touching handrails and doorknobs, using the same kitchen and dining room, sharing tongs to grab food from bins, reaching into the buckets of utensils, pressing their cups to the drink dispensers et cetera.
    I’m supposed to be OK with all of this because they’ve imposed strict hand washing protocols and are taking the temperatures of employees before the boarding of flights. The problem with that is symptoms can take between 2-14 days to appear after exposure, and from what I’ve read, roughly 18% of those infected with COVID-19 will show no symptoms at all. Not enough is being done to ensure the safety of the work force.
    What we’re hearing from health officials and infectious disease experts is that we must practice social distancing, avoid being in groups and limit travel. Remote mine sites cannot adhere to these practices. Furthermore, their medical facilities are not equipped to deal with an outbreak of the Coronavirus. Because of this, stopping any potential infection on site must be of the utmost importance. Ekati understood that. Lives are at stake.
    People are scared and uncertain with what the near future holds given the rapidly evolving circumstances. We turn to those in charge for answers and are offered none. Instead, we keep hearing the same talking points being repeated, “We have procedures in place,” “Wash your hands” and “We have a response plan.” The details of which are not being shared, so we are left to assume everything will be OK because we are told so. People are anxious and experiencing high levels of stress, understandably. Imagine being an employee from the south, you’re seeing a growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, you’re seeing some airlines cancelling flights and routes. Now you’re worried about whether you’ll be able to get home once your rotation is over. It can be overwhelming. The burden on our mental health is escaping consideration.
    I personally have been self-isolating for the past week. Following the advice of medical professionals and heading the warnings of the Italian people. I don’t go out unless necessary, I haven’t been visiting with friends or family, I avoid touching my face and wash my hands often. I am taking this global pandemic very seriously, why isn’t my employer or government? Why am I being put into a situation where I must make the far-reaching decisions for the safety and well-being of myself and others? It would have been unfathomable for me a month ago to envision a world where I’d be walking away from my job. If the diamond mines don’t make the right choice, and they continue to fly, I have to make the hard choice of not getting on that plane.
    I am not oblivious to the huge financial and economic pressures associated with keeping the diamond mines open. The livelihood of thousands depends on the mines, mine included. There are valid socioeconomic reasons to keep the status quo, but at what cost? Are we going to wait for the worst-case scenario before taking action? How much longer will the mines be able to run before inevitably suspending operations? How many lives are we willing to compromise or sacrifice to meet that end? If the mines are unable to, or, unwilling to provide us with these answers, we turn to our government and health officials to make proactive as opposed to reactive decisions. Someone needs to stand up, speak up, and do the right thing.