The NWT’s Diavik diamond mine, which continues to operate amid the coronavirus pandemic, has told some staff to work at the mine for almost a month at a time.
Employees and contractors at Diavik who were previously operating on a fly-in, fly-out two-week rotation are now moving to four weeks on and four weeks off.
Workers who previously spent four days at the site and three days off are to be provided an updated schedule this week.
A spokesperson for Diavik said the changes came into effect on Saturday and are “to reduce the frequency of travel to and from our site” during the pandemic.
Mine workers are not subject to the mandatory self-isolation order announced by the NWT government on Saturday for residents returning to the territory from elsewhere.
Instead, companies are being relied upon to screen their workers with the help of medical professionals before they fly north.
Reducing travel is seen as a means of reducing risk of the virus spreading.
The mine has already placed some staff who work in isolated NWT communities on paid leave in a bid to ensure Covid-19 cannot reach more remote areas where advanced healthcare is not available.
The neighbouring Ekati mine has suspended operations. The territory’s other diamond mine, De Beers’ Gahcho Kué, continues to operate and has also sent home a small number of staff from remote communities, though it’s unclear if those staff are being paid.
Online, several people identifying as employees at Diavik reacted with concern at the news they are to be moved to a rotation that asks them to remain at the mine for almost a month.
Those people said the measure had been communicated with little notice and left no room to accommodate workers whose circumstances do not allow for a month away from home at a time.
Diavik says it is trying to keep staff safe. Other measures listed by the mine include asking all employees not to go to work if they feel unwell or believe they have been exposed to the virus; ordering self-isolation for employees who recently travelled outside Yellowknife; and cancelling all travel to the mine that is not business-critical.
“We will continue to take measures to help protect our people, guided by the advice and regulations of the Canadian and Northwest Territories governments and international authorities,” said a spokesperson.
Update: March 23, 2020 – 13:13 MT. A spokesperson for Rio Tinto initially said fly-in, fly-out workers at Diavik who regularly spend four days on and three off were moving to a week-on, week-off rotation. Subsequently, the spokesperson said this was incorrect and, in fact, those workers will be provided with updated schedules this week. Our report has been amended accordingly.