Presumptive case of COVID-19 reported at Diavik mine in Canadian Northwest Territories

The open pit stands at the Diavik Diamond Mine. There’s a presumptive case of COVID-19 at the mine, the N.W.T. government said on Thursday. (Ben Nelms/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
There’s a presumptive case of COVID-19 at Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories, according to the N.W.T. government.

An Alberta resident who works at the mine was tested upon entry, states a government news release issued Thursday. They spent “minimal time” at the worksite when they received their presumptive result, it states.

Diavik Diamond Mine is about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

The individual is self-isolating at a designated site at the mine, and has no symptoms, says the government.

The individual’s contacts at the mine are also isolating in designated isolation sites. The government says that “contacts were minimized” because of heightened precautions like the use of masks on shuttle buses and charter flights to N.W.T. mines. That includes direct charter flights from Edmonton to the mine.

“No additional contacts are expected in the Northwest Territories — though the case investigation continues,” states the news release.

Alberta’s provincial laboratory will validate the presumptive test, states the news release. Medical staff at the mine are “working closely” with public health officials to do so.

In May, Rio Tinto — which operates the mine  — announced it was introducing on-site COVID-19 testing as a “precautionary measure.”

The company said GuardRX installed an on-site lab at the mine to conduct testing using nasopharyngeal swabs.

Rio Tinto declined an interview request but emailed a statement to the CBC.

“Our focus is on keeping our employees and communities safe. We have extensive measures in place to protect people,” says a statement attributed to a Diavik spokesperson.

The company says thousands of COVID-19 tests have been done at the Diavik mine site since it introduced the on-site lab in May. Diavik is also supporting testing at nearby Gahcho Kué and Snap Lake mines, the statement says.

Health Department quells ‘unconfirmed rumours’

The territory’s Health Department also pointed out a “false claim” in its press release, stating that some people on Facebook were saying Thursday morning that there were three cases of COVID-19 at Yellowknife’s hospital.

“This is false,” states the news release. “We would like to remind residents that spreading unconfirmed rumours serves only to spread anxiety and misinformation — and are dangerous to our collective wellbeing.”

The government says its COVID-19 response website will not include the presumptive case.

As of Wednesday morning, when the website was last updated, 3,163 tests had been done in the territory and 102 people were awaiting results. The N.W.T. has five confirmed cases of COVID-19. The last patient recovered months ago, in April.

Nunavut announced three presumptive cases of COVID-19 at its Mary River Mine near Pond Inlet this month — all of which were confirmed negative at an Ontario lab. All three workers were from outside of the territory, and Nunavut’s chief public health officer said they may have had COVID-19 previously but recovered.

With files from Kate Kyle

Related stories from around the North:

Arctic: Deutsche Bank won’t finance any new Arctic oil and gas projects, The Independent Barents Observer

Canada: Agnico Eagle pipeline plans in Arctic Canada halted after Indigenous community outcry, CBC News

Finland: Finnish company joins mining project in Russian High Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: Norway’s Equinor to drill new Arctic well in Barents Sea, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian investor breathes new life in major Arctic coal project, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedish company LKAB targets emission-free iron ore mining around 2030, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: US sanctions against Chinese shipping company could hurt Russia’s LNG exports, The Independent Barents Observer

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