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Newmont issuing sealed hygiene masks to all workers

It's to be used in an emergency when physical distancing can't be met, according to the general manager
Newmont's Porcupine operations near Timmins (Supplied photo/Newmont)

While mandatory masks aren't required at a Timmins mining operation, it's taking extra steps to protect its staff and contractors. 

Newmont Porcupine has temporarily amended its personal protective equipment (PPE) policy and is issuing sealed hygiene masks to all workers. 

In Timmins, Newmont operates the Hoyle Pond underground mine, the Hollinger open-pit mine, and the Dome processing facility.

As of July 24, a mandatory mask or face covering order from the Porcupine Health Unit came into effect for Timmins and area.

A similar policy also went into effect recently for Sudbury, which is the health unit district for the Newmont's Borden site near Chapleau.

According to the policy, employees and contractors working onsite must always carry it, and it's considered mandatory PPE.

"Contractors and visitors will be further screened at the gate to ensure they are carrying a mask," reads a memo from general manager Patrick Chabot.

"The requirement is that workers don their mask in the event of an emergency in which physical distancing of two metres cannot be maintained."

The memo notes the masks are not for working in close proximity as the site has other controls for that. 

"I want to finish by saying that the pandemic continues to be at the forefront of conversations and decisions made at site," Chabot wrote.

"While our operation and host communities have fared quite well in recent months, continued diligence is required to reduce the spread, prevent outbreaks and save lives."

The Timmins area has recorded 70 positive cases of COVID-19, including eight deaths. Only one case is considered unresolved.

Newmont has continued operations at its Timmins site through the pandemic, although measures were put in place in March to ensure the safety of workers.

Remote working protocols were developed for some employees, and a Porcupine Crisis Management Team was created to reduce the risk of transmission at the site.

The company has also contributed to relief and recovery efforts in the communities in which it operates, setting up the $20-million Newmont Global Community Support Fund in April.

From that, the company donated $100,000 to the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board and $50,000 to the community of Chapleau.

It later contributed $250,000 to a fund set up by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce to assist local businesses get back up and running following closures due to COVID-19.