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NWT reports presumptive Covid-19 case at Diavik mine

Last modified: July 30, 2020 at 1:48pm


A worker from Alberta has recorded a presumptive positive test for Covid-19 on arriving at the Diavik diamond mine, the NWT government said.

The individual is self-isolating in a designated isolation area at the mine, the territory said, adding they were “doing well with no symptoms” and no further details would be provided.

The test is being sent for validation at a laboratory in Alberta.

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People at the mine who came into contact with the worker are also being isolated.

“No additional contacts are expected in the Northwest Territories though the case
investigation continues,” said the NWT government in a statement.

In a tweet, Dr Kami Kandola – the NWT’s chief public health officer – said “more cases of Covid-19 are inevitable” and urged residents to keep their distance, wash their hands, wear face coverings, and follow the rules.

The territory said precautions taken on charter flights carrying workers to NWT mines from Alberta had “minimized” exposure to others in this instance, as had mandatory mask use on flights and shuttle buses.

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“The individual had also spent minimal time on the work site at the time of receiving a result. As this case continues to be validated, statistics on our website will not include this presumptive case at this time,” the territory stated.

A spokesperson for DDMI, the Rio Tinto subsidiary that operates the Diavik mine, said by email: “Our focus is on keeping our employees and communities safe. We have extensive measures in place to protect people and continue to be guided by the Northwest Territories government and advice from international health organizations on best practice.”

DDMI began its own Covid-19 testing operation at Diavik in May, overseen by a non-profit, in which workers are tested both on arrival at the mine and before leaving. All staff are instructed to self-monitor and physically distance for 14 days before travelling to Diavik.

Precautions against Covid-19 at the NWT’s mines have come under intense scrutiny. The mines’ use of workers from southern regions of Canada, where the coronavirus is more widespread, has been perceived as one of the territory’s largest remaining weaknesses after travel restrictions were put in place for most others.

Diavik is one of two diamond mines in the NWT to remain operational during the pandemic, alongside Gahcho Kué, which is operated by De Beers. The Ekati mine, owned by Dominion, suspended work in March over health and safety concerns related to Covid-19. (Dominion itself is in the process of selling its assets to its parent company, an unusual manoeuvre designed to extricate the company from a cashflow crisis that saw it enter creditor protection earlier this year.)

A presumptive positive means an initial positive result has been returned but has yet to receive final confirmation.

In mid-July, two initial presumptive positives at a mine in neighbouring Nunavut were eventually determined to be negative.

Earlier on Thursday, the territory said Facebook posts suggesting three Covid-19 patients were being treated at Yellowknife’s hospital were false.

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