Impala Canada has placed its Lac des Iles mine (LDI) site into quarantine and will be shutting down operations for an undetermined period.
After a visit by Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) officials to the remote property, 90 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, late on April 9, the company decided to use this period to temporarily shut down the underground mining and milling operation after one confirmed case of COVID-19 with a worker was reported earlier this week.
A spokesperson with the palladium mining company said health officials determined there was potential for the virus to be incubating within individuals at the site.
"It is now our job to contain the potential spread of this virus and protect our families and our communities," said Erin Satterthwaite, vice-president of corporate affairs and communications, in an email.
"We are taking this very seriously and are working in close collaboration with public health."
All personnel at the site must remain there until April 18.
"By that time, a 14-day incubation period will have passed since the confirmed individual was last on site," said Satterthwaite. "This means the current workforce rotation at LDI will be extended by five days."
Workers on quarantine will use this period to ramp down operations and place it into a state of basic care and maintenance.
How long the operation will stay mothballed will be determined and communicated in the coming days, Satterthwaite said.
Strict pandemic protocols remain in place and anyone at the mine who presents symptoms are being instructed to self-isolate and call the Health Centre at the site.
The company is looking to secure test kits from TBDHU for any individuals at the mine who may show symptoms. Those who require medical attention will be transferred off-site immediately.
Satterthwaite said health officials assured them "that we are taking extraordinary precautions to keep each other safe and reinforced that we are doing the right thing."
"At LDI, we are collectively doing what we need to do. The health and safety of our team – and that of their families – is our number one priority. Together with the TBDHU, it is our hope that this incubation will pass so that we can say with confidence to each of our employees - you are safe to go home to your loved ones.
Impala Canada's pandemic response protocols currently in-place include are as follows:
· Screening every person who enters and exits site, including temperature checks
· Increased physical spacing between individuals on the buses and shuttles
· Reducing the number of individuals in crew lineups and in the cage going underground
· Enhanced (and enforced) handwashing protocols
· Increased cleaning staff and regime
· Significantly reducing the number of people in the kitchen and dining area with new rotation schedule
· Banning the use of mobile phones in the kitchen
· Temperature screening of kitchen staff daily
· Following all government travel-related instructions