Ok Tedi suspends operations, international flights

Ok Tedi Mining has halted its copper-gold-silver mine operations in Papua New Guinea (PNG) due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

The suspension will last for two weeks since its start on March 19 in a bid to stop further transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

The move was preceded by Ok Tedi’s suspension of all international charter flights to Cairns after five international mine workers tested positive for COVID-19 while they were in the city’s hotel quarantine.

Ok Tedi stated that the suspension would cost it $PGK210 million ($77 million) in revenue.

The company plans to send its non-essential personnel to their home provinces and implement a mass testing program across its operations.

“We do not anticipate significant disruption to our operations as a result of the Australian Government’s announcement (on the travel ban between Australia and PNG), however we are looking at alternative ways to repatriate several of our expatriate employees during the suspension of operations,” Ok Tedi stated.

Some employees will remain at work only to deliver essential services or for care and maintenance, until Ok Tedi decides to resume mine operations on the basis of effective control measures and successful containment of the virus spread.

There were no positive COVID-19 cases prior to the incident in Cairns since Ok Tedi required fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) expatriates to receive a negative test result within 72 hours of travel.

Workers who tested positive have been released from the Cairns Hospital after completing their isolation period.

Ok Tedi stated that it continued to review the effectiveness of its control measures and adjust them based on World Health Organisation, PNG and Australian best practice advice.

The company also plans to assist the surging COVID-19 cases by flying in testing swabs to Queensland, adding that the flights would not be carrying passengers.

Ok Tedi operates its namesake open pit mine in PNG and a logistics facility in Brisbane.

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