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Lac des Iles Mine doubles down on COVID-19 protocols as production continues

“Challenging times” ahead for Implats Canada and employees at northwest palladium mine
Lac des Iles
Lac des Iles Mine (Supplied)

“The Lac des Iles Mine (LDI) remains open and active,” indicates a March 18 Facebook posting from Impala Canada on the activity at their palladium operation in northwestern Ontario.

“We will continue to deliver products to our customers and a livelihood for our employees.”

Soon after Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in Ontario, with an order to limit gatherings of more than 50 people, the company took steps in their health and hygiene practices to prevent the spread of infection.

Implats said their protocols ensure that only “essential personnel” are allowed on-site. All individuals are screened before they step on the property, and anyone who’s been travelling internationally within the last 14 days is not allowed on-site unless they have self-isolated for 14 days.

LDI is a remote operation 90 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. About 700 employees work there.

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Johannesburg-headquartered Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats), one of the world’s leading platinum group metals producers, finalized its acquisition of the mine from North American Palladium in a $1 billion cash-and-shares deal in December. LDI is the only Canadian asset.

The company has given no indication if 2020 production targets will be impacted, nor if exploration on its Sunday Lake and other properties in the area will continue.

Implats said when employees return home from LDI, there is no Health Canada requirement to self-isolate or quarantine if people have been travelling within Canada unless they have been in contact with someone diagnosed with the virus. Social distancing is being strongly encouraged.

The company reported that officials from Thunder Bay District Health Unit officials gave them a thumbs-up after a March 18 tour of the kitchen and cafeteria areas at the Lac des Iles camp, indicating to them that their steps to minimize the spread of infection exceeded federal and provincial standards.

“Challenging times do still lie ahead,” said the Implats Canada Facebook post.

“In consultation with public health authorities, we will continue to take additional preventative actions as the days unfold. But we can take comfort in knowing safety is imbedded in everything we do at LDI. This is clearly evident as we embrace this new challenge together - it is heartwarming to see everyone doing their part to keep us all healthy and safe. These small but thorough actions we are taking as individuals, as a company and as members of society will help save lives.”

Implats congratulated their team for maintaining safety protocols in facing this “unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.”

To the west, Toronto’s New Gold decided to suspend operations for two weeks at its Rainy River Mine, northwest of Fort Frances.

About 70 per cent of the workforce consists of locals who make frequent trips across the border to Minnesota.

Many employees have chosen to self-isolate, according to Canadian and Ontario government guidance regarding COVID-19.

To that end, the company chose to halt operations for 14 days.

The suspension will be assessed over this period to determine when full or partial operations will resume.

New Gold indicated it does not expect to adjust its annual guidance (annual gold production target) for the mine.

A minimum crew will stay on the site to maintain mobile and fixed equipment, sanitize the site and accommodations camp, and monitor for any environmental impacts.