Canadian mining companies are paring back operations, quarantining workers, and putting development projects on hold, in the midst of widespread travel restrictions and lockdowns as COVID-19 spreads around the world.
Toronto-based New Gold Inc. said on Friday it has suspended mining at a northwestern Ontario mine near the U.S. border to minimize the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. About 70 per cent of the workforce at its Rainy River mine is local and employees routinely go back and forth to Minnesota. Many mine workers have already been self-isolating for some time due to the heightened risk brought on by cross-border travel.
The entire 800-plus workforce at Kinross Gold Corp.’s Kupol gold mine in Russia remain in isolation, even after two workers suspected of having COVID-19 tested negative. The senior gold miner started isolating employees at the remote mine in the country’s far east last Saturday after the two individuals got sick and were hospitalized.
“We are taking the situation one day at a time, and continue to work closely with local authorities,” Kinross spokesman Louie Diaz wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.
“While we made the decision to isolate the mine and suspend passenger flights, operations at Kupol continue on schedule, with our employees taking extra precautions as they continue to fulfill their duties at site.”
The two employees are still in hospital but in good condition, added Mr. Diaz.
Just over a week ago, another Kinross employee who worked at the Toronto head office tested positive for the virus. The news prompted the evacuation of the building in the city’s financial district.
Yamana Gold Inc. is paring back underground mining operations at its Cerro Morro gold mine in Argentina after the country’s government imposed a national lockdown on the movement of people. The Toronto-based gold company will continue to mine ore from its open pit at the site using non-local employees.
Hudbay Minerals Inc. has temporarily shut its massive Constancia copper mine in Peru. Earlier in the week, Peru banned all non-essential travel within the country for 15 days, but stipulated that mining could continue under certain circumstances. However, due to the lack of critical supplies, Hudbay is unable to continue mining. The mine is Toronto-based Hudbay’s biggest operation.
Earlier in the week, Pan American Silver Corp. suspended mining in Peru after the government imposed a 15-day stay-at-home quarantine for the entire country. Vancouver-based Pan American has four mines in Peru, which account for about 40 per cent of the company’s revenue.
Teck Resources Inc. also halted construction on a massive new copper mine in Chile called Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2).
Vancouver-based Teck said on Wednesday the suspension is for two weeks and affects 15,000 workers. The $4.7-billion project had already gone over budget, and investors are bracing for a new capital-cost estimate due at the end of the month.
On Thursday, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. sent its entire Nunavut-based crew home for four weeks with full pay to reduce the risk of spread of the virus into the local Indigenous community. Toronto-based Agnico has two mines in Nunavut, and said it can continue to operate there with its remaining workforce.
Troilus Gold Corp. said on Thursday that someone who attended a breakfast event it hosted at a giant Toronto mining conference earlier in the month tested positive for COVID-19. The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference attracted more than 23,000 people, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Another individual who attended PDAC tested positive for the virus on March 11, and was the first case of community spread of COVID-19 in Ontario.