Rio Tinto will launch an industry-first COVID-19 vaccination program, targeting Western Australian communities in the Pilbara and the fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workforce from September.
Partnering with the Western Australia Government, Rio Tinto will install vaccination hubs in the Pilbara and at a trial clinic at Perth Airport.
Rio Tinto’s COVID-19 screening facilities at Perth Airport Terminals Two and Three will be modified to include ‘pop-up’ vaccination hubs to target workers returning to Perth.
The hubs will initially be available to Rio Tinto’s FIFO workforce with the option to expand the service to the wider FIFO community.
Planning is underway for hubs at several locations in the Pilbara, with vaccines available to local community members, Indigenous communities, Rio Tinto employees, contractors and their families, starting with the Tom Price iron ore mine.
Rio Tinto is working with the WA Department of Health and the Shire of Ashburton to finalise a location for the proposed Tom Price hub. The facility could potentially offer vaccines to the entire adult population of Tom Price and surrounding communities.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Simon Trott said the company was ready to support the WA Government’s vaccination rollout in any way it could.
“We are pleased to work in partnership with the WA Government on this industry-first vaccination blitz, which we expect will help boost vaccination rates in the Pilbara,” Trott said.
“This is an important development in our state’s effort to combat COVID-19. We know vaccinations are our best way out of this pandemic and we are very happy to convert our existing screening facilities, which have helped keep COVID-19 out of our operations and vulnerable communities for almost 18 months, to include vaccination hubs.
Trott emphasised that Rio Tinto felt a responsibility to take the initiative given its size and importance to the state.
“Given Rio Tinto’s large operational footprint in the Pilbara, we are well positioned to support the WA Government’s vaccination rollout in the region, ensuring the vaccine is more accessible to remote and vulnerable communities,” Trott said.
“Plans are being developed to establish additional hubs in places like Paraburdoo, Pannawonica and Dampier, following the Tom Price vaccine blitz.”
In-depth discussions are underway with other major miners, including BHP and Fortescue Metals Group.
Health Minister Roger Cook said having a pop-up vaccination clinic at Perth Airport where Rio Tinto’s FIFO workers transit to and from their sites simply makes sense.
“Western Australia’s resources sector leaders are extremely keen to do the right thing and ensure the substantial labour force gets vaccinated as soon as possible,” Cook said.
“Our resources sector is the driver of the economy – it is vital that we keep workers safe and sites operating through this pandemic.”
Rio Tinto will work with the WA Government to finalise details in the coming weeks.