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Mine site infections predicted to jump after travel resumes

Evolution Mining worker
Evolution Mining worker

A resources executive expects the number of sick employees will soar as a growing number of Australians regularly fly again.

Evolution Mining confirmed at least 10 workers tested positive to coronavirus (COVID-19) at its Mungari Mine, 20km west of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. The employer claimed the figure was significantly lower than those recorded at other operations.

“We have had 10 cases at Mungari to date so much fewer than at, for example, what [the] Cowal [operation in New South Wales] experienced,” chief financial officer Lawrie Conway said while announcing March quarter results.

“It does cause a huge distraction to our operation teams in dealing with high levels of absenteeism, high levels of concern among the workforce, and legitimate concern about health. It is a distraction that you would not describe as normal business.”

Conway would not be surprised if the number of employees contracting COVID-19 significantly jumped due to the Federal Government’s decision to reopen international borders.

“You would have to think it [the number of COVID cases] is likely to increase, as travel increases and exposure increases,” he said.

“There are waves of the virus and they do recede. The sites and operations get better at managing it. Omicron seems to cause less damage or illness or death than previous strains. We have got to learn to live with it and that is what our sites and people are doing.”

He previously urged the Commonwealth to reopen the nation for work visa applicants because it would help ease labour shortages across the industry.

“I have seen the call from mining companies that labour access, overseas labour, immigration should be eased. We would be very supportive of that” he said.

The mining boss claimed several competitors have resorted to increasing wages for more job applicants, and this is becoming unsustainable.

“In a tight labour market like we have at the moment access to skills without creating rampant inflation and just not being able to fill roles is critical to the future of the mining industry and, frankly, the economy of the country,” he said.

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AMSJ April 2022