Kirkland Lake Gold is curtailing activity and cutting back on personnel at their Detour Lake open-pit mine and accommodations camp in northeastern Ontario.
The Toronto mining company reports no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at any of their operations, but is immediately implementing a company-wide response plan with enhanced health and safety measures to protect workers.
Operations are being reduced and all personnel deemed non-essential will be required to leave their camp, 185 kilometres northeast of Cochrane, or remain offsite until April 30.
About 300 workers will remain to perform the essential activities during reduced operations. Usually the Detour camp accommodates about 1,100 workers at any given time.
Feed from the open pit and stockpiles will still be processed, along with management of water levels from spring run-off and all environmental management activities.
Exploration activity is also being suspended.
Everyone entering the site is being medically screened, more thorough cleaning and hygiene protocols are in place, workers are practicing social distancing, technology is being used for meetings, and visits to the mine site are being suspended.
Workers from remote First Nations communities, especially those along the James Bay coast, and employees that usually fly to the mine site are advised to remain off site until the end of April.
For those affected by the move to reduced operations, paid leave will be provided for 14 working days, the equivalent of a month of normal pay.
“COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge for people, governments and businesses worldwide,” said company president-CEO Tony Makuch in a March 22 statement.
“As always, the safety of our employees is our top priority. On a company-wide basis, we are introducing a series of health and safety protocols including medical screening, increased cleaning and hygiene and remote work and other forms of social distancing.”
Makuch said this is a “best judgement” call to protect workers, especially at Detour Lake due to the remoteness of the mine.
“We will continue to produce, though at lower levels, and will ensure critical tasks are completed such as managing water during the spring run-off and ongoing environmental management. It is not possible at this time to estimate the impact of reduced operations on Detour Lake’s 2020 production.”
Besides Detour Lake, Kirkland Lake Gold’s other operations are at the Macassa Mine in Kirkland Lake and their Fosterville Mine in Victoria, Australia.
The company is also doing its best to preserve its financial strength by terminating its Automatic Share Purchase Plan (ASPP). It was launched in February in connection with the company’s current normal course issuer bid (NCIB).
Under the current NCIB, the company can purchase up to 10.5 million additional common shares between now and its expiry on May 28. A total of 10.4 million common shares have been repurchased to date, total of $360 million (C$483 million), including 1.9 million shares through the ASPP.
“Given current global events, we believe it is prudent to maintain as much financial flexibility as possible, said Makuch. “We continue to have a very strong balance sheet with close to $500 million of cash and no debt.”