SA halts FIFO work under COVID-19 lockdown

BHP's Olympic Dam mine in South Australia. Source: BHP

South Australia has confirmed that mining employees considered as essential workers will be exempt from the state’s six-day lockdown.

However, fly-in fly-out (FIFO) travel within the state will be halted, as will non-essential mining and smelting activities.

State Premier Steven Marshall announced yesterday that South Australia would enter into a six day “circuit breaker pause” to restrict movement and implement a contract tracing and testing blitz to contain the current COVID-19 outbreak.

South Australian Department for Energy and Mining Paul Heithersay clarified the essential and non-essential mining works that will be permitted during this period.

“FIFO movements, construction activities and non-essential operations across the resources and energy sector are to stop for six days,” Heithersay said.

“Only employees who are identified as essential workers will be exempt from this direction. More detail will be provided directly to industries on essential workers as soon as possible.”

Mining giant BHP is working with the South Australian Government to determine what these rules mean for its Olympic Dam copper, silver and uranium operations.

“We are currently working through what this will look like for Olympic Dam and will update once the impacts are fully understood,” a BHP spokesperson said.

“In terms of any employees that travel from South Australia to Western Australia, we continue to work with government to ensure we meet all requirements with the health and safety of our people and the community as our priority.”

Located 560 kilometres north of state capital Adelaide, Olympic Dam is one of the world’s largest copper, gold, silver and uranium deposits.

During the 2020 financial year, BHP produced 172,000 tonnes of copper at the South Australian site, representing a 7 per cent increase on the 2019 financial year.

BHP also achieved record gold production of 37,032 ounces, 268,000 ounces of silver and 975 tonnes of uranium from the mine.

South Australia will remain in the six-day circuit breaker lockdown, which forbids all regional travel and states all residents must stay at home except for essential work, accessing medical care, grocery shopping or accessing an essential service.

This will be followed by an eight-day period of re-opened services operating under strict conditions.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.