You are currently viewing Western Australia’s big miners step up measures to keep COVID-19 out of their workforces

Western Australia’s big miners step up measures to keep COVID-19 out of their workforces

For two years, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has tried to protect the county’s most lucrative industry, iron ore, from COVID-19.

However, last month, the virus found its way to the Pilbara.

Five BHP workers contracted the disease and were forced to quarantine in their dongas (small accommodation rooms) at their remote worksite, 1,400 kilometers north of Perth.

In all, 79 workers were tested on site and 34 — the COVID-positive patients plus their close contacts — were quarantined in their rooms.

Their quarantine was initially meant to be for 14 days, but earlier this week the West Australian government changed the isolation duration to seven days and they were released.

It is the tip of the iceberg scenario that the mining sector — and both state and federal governments — hope to avoid as the Omicron variant spreads through Western Australia.

“We have to be ready,” Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive officer Simon Trott told The Business.

Rio Tinto’s iron ore chief executive, Simon Trott, is readying his workforce for an eventual COVID-19 outbreak.(ABC News: Rachel Pupazzoni)

“We’re going to have to respond to the circumstances that we face each time, and we can’t stand here and predict exactly what will happen in the future.

“Certainly, we’re seeing greater cases in the community.”

Why is it so important to protect the iron ore sector?

West Australian iron ore miners sold $155 billion worth of the commodity in 2020-21.

Last financial year, the Pilbara Ports Authority loaded 676.3 million tonnes for export on behalf of companies — including Rio Tinto, BHP, FMG and Roy Hill — as well as other smaller operators.

Those exports, mostly to China, are the single-biggest contributor to Australia’s GDP.

Leave a Reply