© Joseph Mayers
© Joseph Mayers

How Far North mines have reduced coronavirus risk

FAR Northern mining operations are unlikely to follow their Western Australian counterparts and push for widespread COVID blood testing.

The Western Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy has been lobbying for blood tests of all FIFO workers and frontline staff - a measure considered unnecessary in the Weipa biosecurity zone.

Rio Tinto staff have moved to a residential workforce at Weipa during the pandemic.
Rio Tinto staff have moved to a residential workforce at Weipa during the pandemic.

A spokesman for Rio Tinto said its staff in Weipa had moved to a residential workforce during the pandemic.

"Strict controls have been in place since early March 2020 to restrict non-essential travel to Weipa operations," the spokesman said.

"As part of this measure, we relocated more than 200 fly-in fly-out contractors to Weipa for at least the next three to six months with specialist skills not usually found locally.

"Temperature screening is now in place at Weipa Airport and has commenced at shift starts and at ferry and bus boarding points.

"We are reviewing additional screening measures, in line with other operations within the aluminium product group."

Weipa Town Authority Chairman Michael Rowland said widespread testing was likely to be accepted in the community.
Weipa Town Authority Chairman Michael Rowland said widespread testing was likely to be accepted in the community.


The Queensland Resources Council said the industry had been following the directives of the chief health officer.

"We have had direct engagement with Dr Jeannette Young to discuss additional measures that companies can implement over and above what has been required," QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said.

"To date she has expressed a view that testing of all FIFO workers is not necessary."

Weipa Town Authority Chairman Michael Rowland said widespread testing, although unnecessary for residential workers, was likely to be accepted if not too onerous.

As of April 23, Weipa was formally included in the Cape York biosecurity zone.

The Cape York/Torres region so far has not recorded any cases of COVID-19.

Originally published as How Far North mines have reduced coronavirus risk