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Hundreds of mine workers migrate to West Coast due to COVID-19

BHP iron ore
BHP iron ore

A multinational mining company has moved staff to Western Australia in response to a deadly disease.

BHP has relocated hundreds of essential mine workers to its Western Australian Iron Ore (WAIO) operations after the Golden State’s decided to close its borders to non-residents to help contain the Chinese coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Contractors affected

QMEB can reveal the affected people include both direct employees and external contractors. The company has also relocated the family members of several employees to keep them together during the crisis.

“To meet border controls introduced by the Western Australian Government, over 900 employees and contractors in business critical roles have been temporarily relocated to WA, including the majority of specialist roles who are based interstate, such as train drivers, [tug boat operators] and train load out operators,” the proponent said in its latest operational review.

Major changes

The announcement came after the mining giant rolled out a variety of social distancing, hygiene, travel restrictions and risk management measures back in March 2020.

These include:

  • limiting the number of people at mine sites and other operational facilities to business critical employees and contractors only
  • changing rosters to reduce workforce movements
  • regular health screenings and temperature checks for workers, for example before boarding planes or buses and when entering sites
  • social distancing, limiting work-related travel
  • improving hygiene and deep cleaning at accommodation camps to reduce the risk of transmission.

“WAIO continues to focus on operating safely and has incorporated a series of preventative measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the company said. “We have reduced the number of workers on our sites, with those not critical to operations working from home.”

Strong performance

Higher production volumes helped BHP achieve record production at the Jimblebar Iron Ore Mine in the Pilbara, and strong performance across its supply chain helped counter the adverse effects of category one tropical cyclone Blake and category three cyclone Damien, including improved car dumper reliability and major car dumper maintenance.

“We have operated safely for the quarter and have achieved another strong operational performance,” BHP CEO Mike Henry said in a public statement.

“We have implemented extensive measures across our operations to keep our people and communities safe from COVID-19 … [and] strict travel and working practice arrangements have been established, including deferral of non-critical activity on our operating sites to support social distancing, revised rosters to reduce people travelling to site, more intensive site cleaning and health checks. I am encouraged to know that the small number of colleagues from our 72,000 strong global workforce who have tested positive for the virus have recovered or are recovering well.”

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Click here for more information on BHP’s COVID-19 response.

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