Senior members of Canada’s mining community are asking authorities to divulge more information about the movements of an attendee of last week’s mining conference in Toronto who has since tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Sudbury health officials confirmed late Tuesday that a man in his 50s who attended the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference on March 1 and March 2 has contracted COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford said the man is an employee of the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and that the Sudbury office has been closed to prevent further spread of the virus.
Sudbury health officials are advising anyone who attended the PDAC conference to monitor themselves for symptoms of the illness, which include fever and cough, for the next two weeks.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. So far the deadly respiratory disease has spread to about 120,000 people around the world and killed more than 4,200.
More than 23,000 people attended the PDAC conference last week. Attendees from about 130 countries included mining executives, politicians and investors.
Marie Inkster, chief executive officer of Canadian copper producer Lundin Mining Inc., was there last week, as were a number of Lundin employees. She said health officials need to disclose more information about the man who tested positive for COVID-19 and what sessions he might have attended.
“I understand that you have to balance the privacy of the individual with health concerns, but I think there’s information that they can give to people without identifying the person,” she said.
“It would be helpful to people in assessing their risk. And if you can have better information to help with that risk assessment, then we’re all better off.“
Clive Johnson, CEO of Vancouver-based gold miner B2GOLD Corp., did not attend the conference due to a cold, but about 35 of his employees were there.
“More information is always better in a situation like this, so people can figure out if they were in contact with him,” Mr. Johnson said in an interview.
At the conference last week, the smell of disinfectant was heavy in the air, with notices posted widely about the need to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Many attendees bumped elbows instead of shaking hands. Still, the event more or less progressed as planned, with representatives from some of the biggest mining companies in the world in attendance, including the CEOs of Barrick Gold Corp. and Ivanhoe Mines Ltd.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Mr. Rickford were all there as well.
In a statement on its website, the PDAC said it had learned about the attendee in question and is working with Toronto Public Health and Public Health Sudbury and District.
“Since last night we have been working with public health officials to provide detailed information so that they can follow up directly with individuals and their close contacts," it said.
PDAC president Felix Lee did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
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