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COVID-19 puts Musselwhite Mine in mothballs

Newmont places four global mine operations on care and maintenance
Musselwhite Mine (8)
Musselwhite Mine (Supplied photo)

Musselwhite Mine in northwestern Ontario is one of four mines Newmont has chosen to temporarily suspending operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The remote, fly-in/fly-out operation is being placed in care and maintenance to protect nearby First Nations from the spread of the virus and also to adhere to government-mandated travel restrictions in Canada and South America.

Musselwhite is an underground gold mine, 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

The Newmont mines being temporarily mothballed are: Eléonore in Quebec, Cerro Negro in Argentina, and Yanacocha in Peru.

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Care and maintenance is a temporary suspension that’s usually done during low commodity prices in the hope that in the future, those prices will rebound to eventually make these operations more commercially viable.

Newmont is limiting the number of personnel at the Musselwhite site to reduce the number of flight activity and prevent any transmission of the virus to nearby First Nation communities.

The only essential personnel will be in maintenance, environmental management and security.

Newmont’s  health and safety measures include cancelling all non-essential travel, medical screening for those entering and departing sites, at-home work plans for employees, mandatory self-quarantine for those who have travelled internationally and those experiencing flu-like symptoms.

“Our business continuity plans and rapid response teams have been fully mobilized in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic,” said company president-CEO Tom Palmer.

“We are working closely with host communities, First Nations and other indigenous peoples, regional and national governments and health experts to protect our workforce and nearby communities. This includes putting some operations temporarily into care and maintenance while others continue to operate at targeted production levels. We are also making sure that these short-term disruptions do not impact long-term business value while ensuring we are well-positioned to safely and efficiently ramp-up operations in a timely manner once the worst of this global pandemic passes.”

Newmont is also withdrawing its 2020 production targets, especially if some operations remain on care and maintenance for an extended period.

Once the protective measures are lifted, the company said operations should be able to resume as normal.

“We currently have no confirmed COVID-19 cases among our workforce and are taking significant, proactive measures including social distancing at all our sites; removing substantial numbers of non-critical workers from our operations; closing offices with employees working remotely; and stopping all non-essential business travel to ensure we don’t become a pathway for transmission to others,” said Palmer.

“These are unprecedented times for all industries and while this pandemic brings a lot of uncertainty, Newmont is well positioned to safely and responsibly generate long-term value for all of our stakeholders.”

Denver-based Newmont is the world’s leading gold company and is also a producer of copper, silver, zinc and lead with assets and properties in North America, South America, Australia and Africa. 

As of December 31, Newmont reports $2.2 billion in consolidated cash and more than $5 billion of liquidity, enough get through the global pandemic, the company said.