The NWT’s Ekati diamond mine will halt all operations at the mine site “to safeguard employees and communities,” operator Dominion Diamond Mines announced on Thursday evening.
Ekati is the territory’s largest diamond mine, with around 400 workers understood to be on-site this week. Only a “minimal care and maintenance crew” will remain at the site, several hundred kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.
Dominion said it had “no timeline” for bringing the mine back into operation as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
There was no immediate update from the territory’s other two working diamond mines, Diavik and Gahcho Kué.
Earlier this week, all three mines had said they were screening workers, including the use of temperature tests, before allowing people to fly to the mines.
However, fears had been expressed – particularly in nearby Indigenous communities – about the consequences of a Covid-19 case emerging among mine workers.
Ekati workers were told on Thursday, in a series of conference calls, that the mine would undergo a “work stoppage.”
Workers will not be paid while the mine is closed, two employees – who asked for anonymity as they feared retribution – told Cabin Radio. Their last paycheques are expected in early April. Some health benefits would continue, employees said they were told.
The company said in a statement it had “decided to suspend operations … to safeguard its employees and the communities surrounding its operations from threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Although none of Dominion’s employees have tested positive for the coronavirus to date,” the statement continued, “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.”
Dominion promised more updates “as they become available.”