WA miners suspend FIFO flights until Friday

Social distancing at the Jimblebar operation in Western Australia last year. Image: BHP

BHP and Fortescue Metals Group are among mining companies that have cancelled fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) flights to and from Perth during this week’s lockdown in Western Australia.

The Western Australian Government announced that the metropolitan Perth, South West and Peel regions would go into a snap lockdown from 6pm Sunday to 6pm Friday to allow for testing and contract tracing of the positive case recorded on the weekend.

A quarantine hotel worker has returned a positive result to the United Kingdom strain of the virus, which is known to be highly contagious.

A BHP spokesperson said while flights for essential workers were being considered for later this week, the company had stopped all currently scheduled FIFO flights in line with government advice.

“In line with directions from the West Australian Government, we are playing our part to help keep communities safe and reduce the risk of transmission, while keeping our operations running safely,” the spokesperson said.

Fortescue chief executive Elizabeth Gaines said the health and safety of the company’s employees, their families and communities was the highest priority, so it would continue to work with authorities to implement relevant measures to protect these people from COVID-19.

“While mining workers have been deemed an essential service, we support the need to minimise travel and have cancelled flights as we await updates on the situation,” Gaines said.

“We are cooperating with the government to limit the movement of people during this important five-day lockdown.

“Our incident management team is meeting regularly to consider the latest guidelines from the Western Australian Government as they become available.”

Fellow Pilbara-based iron ore miner Mineral Resources (MinRes) has also minimised the movement of its workers, bringing only essential workers to site who will first be screened and tested prior to mobilisation.

They will then be instructed to remain in strict isolation at home and return a negative COVID-19 test before flying to site.

MinRes has also opened its metropolitan Perth COVID-19 testing facilities to assist the Western Australian Government with the expected surge in testing requirements.

The company has supplied two drive-through screening facilities at the Perth Airport and in Wangara, which was constructed in April last year to help prevent cases spreading within the mining industry.

“Mineral Resources is committed to assisting the government in this latest outbreak by offering our world-class facilities to the community to help take the pressure off the government screening facilities,” company managing director Chris Ellison said.

“We are fortunate to have been able to secure certified testing machines and the necessary testing kits to help Western Australia’s fight against COVID-19 and will do everything we can to help minimise the spread of the virus.”

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