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COVID-19 claims life of Lac des Iles worker

No plans to resume operations at northwestern Ontario mine as COVID cases reach 25.
NAP Lac des Iles
Lac des Iles Mine, northwest of Thunder Bay.

The spread of COVID-19 at a northwestern Ontario palladium in April has claimed the life of a Lac des Iles worker late last week due to complications, Impala Canada has confirmed.

“He was respected by his fellow coworkers, who remember him as being full of life, despite underlying health conditions,” said the company in an emailed message.

“We send our deepest sympathies to his wife and children, to his immediate crew and to his entire community. This terrible sadness weighs heavily on all of us at LDI, as it does for people across the entire Thunder Bay region.

“As we navigate the somber days ahead, we are once again reminded of the seriousness of this global pandemic. We must all continue to play our part, whether at home, on site or in self-isolation. Compassion for one another and for our community will help steer us through this time of sorrow.”

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A tribute to the LDI worker can be on the Impala Facebook page: .

As of noon April 27, Impala claims the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases directly connected to work at the now-mothballed palladium mine, northwest of Thunder Bay, stands at 25.

In each case, the company said symptoms occurred sometime between April 3 and April 20. Thirteen of these cases are now considered resolved, meaning 14 days have passed since the onset of symptoms.

"We have no information regarding close contacts of these confirmed cases," said a company spokesperson by email.

"Contact tracing is complete related to the confirmed cases."

The operation was placed on temporary care and maintenance on April 13. Tentative plans to resume operations April 28 have been postponed indefinitely.

“LDI will remain in care and maintenance for the time being and we have no plans to re-start operations on April 28,” said the company,

With a state of emergency in effect in Ontario, Impala said: “Full operations will only ramp back up when we are confident it is safe to do so within the realities of a global pandemic.”

That decision, Impala said, will be done in consultation with local health officials.

A new care and maintenance crew of less than 50 was being rotated in on April 28 to oversee essential infrastructure and handle environmental controls and management at the site.

In the interim, the company responded that “a deep and comprehensive sanitization of the camp” has been completed.

“All existing pandemic response protocols will continue to be strictly followed and daily temperature checks have been added. And we continue to consult with (the Thunder Bay District Health Unit) on any additional best practices we can implement to further eliminate the potential spread of COVID-19 on site, now and into the future.”

As for its furloughed workers, Impala said they will be paid for the remainder of this month. Those not on the care and maintenance team will be placed on unpaid job-protected leave with health and medical benefits as of May 1.

“We’re advising employees apply for financial assistance through the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). We understand this news is disappointing for our team. The COVID-19 pandemic has made for an uncertain world and shifting realities where difficult decisions must be made.”