BHP, MinRes and Rio Tinto push for fully vaccinated workforces

BHP Mt Arthur Coal operations in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales.

Three of Australia’s biggest mining companies have enforced mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations just days after the Western Australian Government put in place its own state-wide policy.

BHP employees will need to be fully vaccinated by January 31, 2022, before they can work for the company, while Mineral Resources (MinRes) has announced that staff would need to have their first vaccination by December 1 and be fully vaccinated by January 1, 2022 (in line with the WA mandate).

In addition, Rio Tinto announced that vaccination will be a requirement for its entire WA workforce, including those who work in offices and other facilities in Perth.

In a message from MinRes managing director Chris Ellison to his workforce, the company advised its decision was in line with the WA directive and would help protect the WA community when state borders begin to reopen.

MinRes commended its staff for their vigilance since the beginning of the pandemic, praising the company’s ability to keep its workers safe.

However, the company said it needed to take the next step.

“The WA Government is preparing to open our borders to the rest of Australia and, when they open, COVID-19 will come into Western Australia,” Ellison said.

“As a result, I am asking everyone to again come together to protect our MRL family and follow the health advice and get vaccinated. This is the only way we can keep everyone safe and in jobs.”

Following public health advice in its decision, BHP Minerals Australia president Edgar Basto said the mandate came down to protecting the health of its workforce and loved ones.

“The science is clear that widespread vaccination saves lives,” Basto said. “In line with Government guidance, we recognise the path forward is through widespread vaccination in Australia, and we are looking at a range of practical ways to support that while protecting communities and workforces.”

Basto said BHP had conducted a detailed evaluation before making its decision.

“We have undertaken a thorough assessment and believe that this is the right path forward to protect the health of our people, their families and the communities where we operate – including remote Indigenous communities – while continuing to safely run our operations,” he said.

“We know this will raise questions for some, and we will work closely with our workforce as we go through the process of implementing these controls at our workplaces.”

The Western Australian Government announced last week it would make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) and other resources sector workers from December.

Mandatory first doses will be required as of December 1, with full vaccination expected of resources workers, workers in remote operations or working in rural and remote locations by January 1, 2022.

Rio Tinto has also announced the opening of its vaccination hub at Perth Airport, designed to provide fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers in the mining industry the opportunity to easily access a COVID-19 vaccination when they arrive in Perth.

The vaccination hub will operate at Perth Airport terminals T2 and T3, and can be accessed by any FIFO worker in the resources industry.

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