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Diamond mines send home workers

The individual with the presumptive positive case of Covid-19 is self-isolating at a designated spot at the mine, said the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer. file photo

Two diamond mines in the NWT have undertaken measures with personnel and operations as the COVID-19 pandemic situation continues to unfold.

The Diavik Diamond Mine, operated by Rio Tinto, announced March 20 it sent some NWT workers home  on paid leave although operations continue at full capacity.

“This measure applies for around 50 employees from the following communities: Deline, Fort Good Hope, Fort Simpson, Gameti, Jean Marie River, Lutsel K’e, Tulita, Wekweeti, Whati in the Northwest Territories and Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, Kugluktuk in Nunavut,” said Diavik spokesperson Matthew Klar.

“Diavik began notifying team members on this on Wednesday and at the moment it applies until April 14, when Diavik will reassess the situation.”

Around 1,100 employees and contractors work at the site, though the numbers vary from time to time.

“Our first priority is the safety of employees and community members. This week we have taken the proactive step of putting employees who reside in 12 isolated communities in the Northwest Territories on paid leave. This measure will help to reduce risks for these communities.”

The company is also cancelling all “non-business critical travel” to the mine site, carrying out health screenings, and asking employees to stay home if they feel unwell or believe they've been exposed to COVID-19.

Diavik's announcement follows a similar one on March 19 from Dominion Diamond Mines, which said it has suspended operations at its Ekati site.

In a statement, Dominion said none of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19 but “this preventative action was determined to be a necessary step given the rapid spread of the virus, the remote location of the Ekati mine’s operations and the high frequency of air travel required for employees and support staff to access mining operations.”

NNSL Media has reached out to De Beers, the NWT's third diamond mine, for comment. That company operates the Gahcho Kue diamond mine northeast of Yellowknife.

There were no positive cases of the coronavirus in the NWT and 222 tests have been conducted, according to the latest update on March 19 from the Department of Health and Social Services.