The AWU and the CFMEU have clarified the position of unions associated with potential mining camp quarantining of workers.
The two powerful mining unions believe that the quarantining workers in camps should only occur in exceptional circumstances and in accordance with medical advice.
The unions say that in circumstances where isolation is unavoidable, the following minimum conditions should apply:
- The mine operator should ensure that the camps offer safe and appropriate facilities for on-site quarantine if it becomes necessary;
- The mine operator should ensure that the workers confined to camp have access to telephone and video-call facilities at no cost to themselves;
- The mine operator should put in place activities and services designed to alleviate the mental stress of the quarantined workers, including by providing professional counselling services, exercise and entertainment options;
- Appropriate transport must be provided to workers to get home or to the hospital if required due to illness or quarantine;
- The period of quarantine must be treated as work time for all purposes and employees must be given equivalent time off from rostered work after quarantine before returning again to the mine site for work.
The move comes after several workers have been quarantined at mining camps over the last weeks while they awaited COVID-19 test results. AMSJ understands a range of precautionary measure have been undertaken by miners including social distancing and the decontamination of camp facilities post detection.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that mining camps and mine sites would continue to remain open despite an Australian wide ban on indoor gatherings of >100 personnel. Offices and a range of core medical facilities were included in the exemption offered to mining companies.
Bob Timbs CFMEU NSW South Western District Vice President has also highlighted issues around mass gathering for pre-starts. He said the union “was concerned about miners’ exposure to the virus during mass meetings at the start of a shift, rather than when they’re underground.”
“One of the safeguards they could put in place, for instance, is not to have mass start of shift meetings on the surface,” Mr Timbs said.
“Some of these meetings might include over 100 people. We’d like to see them isolate the workforce into work crews.”
Global miners move to preparedness for COVID-19
The Australian unions move to clarify concerns of mineworkers comes as 700 workers were evacuated from a remote Vale Voisey Bay mine site in Labrador Canada over fears that the virus could significantly impact indigenous communities.
Vale said that no workers were affected but the inherent risks of an outbreak in the community would be concerning “Although none of our employees has tested positive for coronavirus at any of Vale’s global operations, Vale has taken this preventative action because of the unique remoteness of that area, with fly-in and fly-out operations, with higher exposure to travel.
“Vale will work together with the communities and authorities to ensure our operations do not act as a catalyst to inadvertently introduce the virus in these communities” a media statement confirmed.
Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi has also experienced a range of delays associated with COVID-19 in inner Mongolia. Rio is reportedly working with the Government of Mongolia to ensure Oyu Tolgoi is operating in accordance with the restrictions the Mongolian authorities have put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19. Since January the movement of goods and people within Mongolia have been restricted within and across its border and this has further escalated recently as the first case of COVID-19 has occurred in the country.
Anglo American announced a temporary withdrawal of the majority of employees and contractors from its Quellaveco copper project in Peru. The move comes following the Government of Peru’s announcement of a 15-day national quarantine to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Anglo American’s Chief Executive, Mark Cutifani confirmed that “The safety and health of everyone must come first, ever more so at times such as these. We are in the process of safely demobilising most of the 10,000 strong construction workforce at our Quellaveco copper project, in support of the Government of Peru’s measures to control the spread of COVID-19.”
An Anglo Ashanti operation also confirmed that a miner had tested positive for COVID-19 at the Obuasi gold mine in Ghana. The miner is in quarantine at camp living in self-isolation. The Anglo Ashanti case was the second confirmed case of COVID-19 at a mining operation in Africa following an Endeavour Mining employee being confirmed with the virus.
Want to know where COVID-19 cases are? You can use the Coronavirus Map here.
NOTE: AMSJ Would like readers to note that conditions, including health care at overseas operations, may be significantly different from those encountered in Australia. In all circumstances, miners should consult with their union, company and www.health.gov.au or their local state authority.
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