To keep crew safe, most mining companies implemented their own quarantine and coronavirus testing procedures ahead of global lockdown. This has helped the sector prevent the huge outbreaks that have been seen in other industries, but they bring with them additional layers of complexity and significant cost.
Workers need to arrive in a quarantine location 14 days ahead of needing to travel. In some cases people quarantine before travel, and then must quarantine in an airport hotel in the nation of their destination, before being able to travel to site. The same quarantine protocols apply on the return leg home. This additional time is expensive, and no work is taking place.
One of the challenges in this pandemic is the amount of people who test positive for the virus, and yet show no symptoms. Workers may be asymptomatic and still test positive, meaning they cannot travel and must remain in isolation. Mining cannot safely operate without a full crew compliment, and so mining businesses are having to plan ahead and have extra team members travelling as pre-emptive sickness cover.
According to Robert Redfield, the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that 25 per cent of people infected with coronavirus don’t present any symptoms. This requires contingency planning to levels never seen before, and brings with it exceptional cost.
The mining sector has an incredible track record in ensuring measures to keep people safe, and they have retained this high bar during the COVID-19 pandemic. This requires investment into new processes to protect everyone’s health. From areas within helicopters where doctors can be isolated from other socially distancing passengers, to dedicated self-isolation facilities in cities centred around the mining industry, the investment is huge. We all have to be prepared that these costs will move through the supply chain.
ATPI Mining & Resources has travel in our DNA and we’re working with our clients to recommend the protocols that will need to be in place for the long term. We’re also working alongside industry bodies to support policy changes that see consistent requirements in the quarantine measures for crew travelling around the world.