PNG travel ban won’t interrupt Lihir production: Newcrest

The Lihir operation in Papua New Guinea. Image: Newcrest Mining

Newcrest Mining expects the Lihir gold operation in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to face no repercussions from the Australian Government’s ban on incoming and outgoing travel between the neighbouring countries.

The Lihir operation is currently undertaking a planned maintenance shutdown and is progressively starting up.

Newcrest stated that it was working closely with the Australian Government to prevent any possible impacts from the ban.

“There is currently no anticipated interruption to gold production arising as a result of the travel suspension,” Newcrest stated.

The gold miner noted that a “small number of COVID-19 cases” have appeared among its workforce in PNG, who are currently being monitored and supported by its medical staff in quarantine.

“Strict hygiene, social distancing and other COVID-19 management protocols remain in place at Lihir with comprehensive testing, quarantine and precautionary contact tracing procedures enforced,” Newcrest stated.

“Lihir has a dedicated isolation camp and separate isolation and treatment facility where care and support can be provided.”

Newcrest is aiming to position Lihir as a one-million-plus-ounces per annum gold producer from the 2023 financial year onwards.

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison suspended fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers from travelling in and out of PNG on Wednesday, as part of a larger travel ban as COVID-19 cases in PNG surge.

Morrison said Australia had banned all outbound travel exemptions to Papua New Guinea, outside of essential and critical workers.

“This will include no general FIFO work. If you’re there, you stay. If you’re here, you stay,” he said. “We cannot risk people going into those areas and back to Australia.”

Prior to the ban, Papua New Guinea miner Ok Tedi Mining also enforced a two-week ban on its international charter flights last week due to its personnel testing positive for COVID-19 during hotel quarantine in Cairns.

Ok Tedi’s quarantined workers have been released after completing the isolation period.

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