Update on COVID-19 testing at Diavik diamond mine and food security initiatives
Nearly 2,600 tests for COVID-19 have now been completed at Rio Tinto’s Diavik diamond mine in the Northwest Territories of Canada, with no cases detected in the workforce.
On-site testing using nasopharyngeal swabs was introduced for Diavik employees and contractors seven weeks ago in collaboration with the Chief Public Health Officer of the Northwest Territories, as an extra precautionary measure to protect workers and community members.
All personnel are tested on arrival at the mine and before leaving to return home, in addition to a comprehensive range of control measures around screening, sanitisation and social distancing. These combined measures are ensuring Diavik can continue to operate safely and maintain its significant contribution to the Northwest Territories economy and community partners.
Diavik is also supporting COVID-19 testing at the nearby Gahcho Kué and Snap Lake mines, processing over 850 additional tests to date. This brings the total number of tests completed at Diavik to approximately 3,450 tests.
Diavik President and chief operating officer Richard Storrie said “The health and safety of our employees is our number one priority. The successful COVID-19 testing program is helping to protect our people and communities, and ensure we can continue operations at Diavik in a safe and responsible manner. In these challenging times, we are committed to playing our part by providing work for more than one thousand people, supporting our community partners and making a significant contribution to the Northwest Territories economy.”
Supporting food security in the Northwest Territories
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Rio Tinto has worked in collaboration with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN), Food Rescue, YWCA NWT and the YK Food Bank, contributing over C$20,000 to various grassroots food security initiatives in the Northwest Territories.
In partnership with the YKDFN, Det’on Cho Corporation and DeBeers Canada, Rio Tinto provided financial support to the YKDFN food hamper program. Members of Diavik’s team also participated in hamper filling and two hamper distributions have taken place so far. Diavik also donated buckets and soil to the YKDFN for potato seed planting, in order to support food autonomy in the region.
Det’on Cho Corporation President and chief executive officer Paul Gruner said “A big thank you to Diavik for contributing to the Yellowknives Dene First Nation food security program. A few days ago, we took in eight pallets of food which we broke down into over 250 individual food hampers that were then delivered door-to-door to YKDFN members. This would not have been possible without contributions from donors such as Diavik.” Notes to editors
The COVID-19 testing program is being run using an onsite laboratory installed at Diavik by not for profit public health experts GuardRX.
The on-site testing adds a further layer to the precautionary controls for workers at Diavik guided by the Northwest Territories government that include:
• Completing 14 days of recorded self-monitoring before travelling to the mine, including temperature checks, and physical distancing
• Medical screening before travelling to the mine through a hotline with physician assistants
• Health screening with temperature checks before boarding flights to the mine • Daily monitoring including temperature testing while at the mine
Other measures in place at Diavik include:
• Having anyone who can do so work remotely and cancelling all non-business critical travel to site
• Longer shift rosters to reduce the frequency of travel to and from the site
• Using charter flights so employees and contractors are not exposed to commercial flights
• Physical distancing protocols at site