Presumptive case of COVID-19 reported at Canada’s Northwest Territories diamond mine

The open pit stands at the Diavik Diamond Mine. A person has tested positive for COVID-19 at the mine, the N.W.T. government said in a news release Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
The Northwest Territories government says there’s a presumptive case of COVID-19 at Diavik Diamond Mine.

A worker tested positive upon entry and is said to be an Ontario resident. They were taken to the mine by a charter flight directly from the South, according to a news release Wednesday morning.

The news release states that the person is self-isolating in an isolation area at the mine, which is located about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. The government says it won’t provide further details to protect the individual’s privacy.

The government says a “presumptive positive” test means it will be further tested and confirmed at the Alberta Precision Laboratories.

Medical staff at the mine are working with public health officials for next steps, according to the government.

“Contacts at the mine site are isolated in designated areas with no additional risk identified for the Northwest Territories,” states the news release.

In July, a worker from Alberta tested positive for COVID-19 at the Diavik mine and had returned home. The positive case was counted toward Alberta’s COVID-19 tally, the government said at the time, as the person was not from the N.W.T. The office of the N.W.T. chief public health officer closed its investigation into that case, and determined there was no risk to communities in the territory.

The government said Wednesday that if the Ontario worker’s presumptive case is confirmed as positive, the case also won’t be included in the territory’s tally of confirmed cases.

There are currently no other known active cases of COVID-19 in the territory. All five of the territory’s confirmed cases recovered months ago.

According to the government’s latest numbers, 4,085 tests have been done in the territory, and 144 people are currently waiting for their results.

Precautions taken at mine

Rio Tinto, which operates the Diavik mine, introduced COVID-19 testing for workers back in May. The company said all workers will be tested when they arrive and before they leave Diavik.

“Much like the last case at a remote camp, heightened precautions in accordance with the territory’s public health orders and through additional diligence by the company worked to minimize exposures,” states the government news release.

Those include direct charter flights to the mine, mandatory masks on planes and shuttle buses, and physical distancing on-site prior to workers receiving their test results.

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

Rio Tinto says there have been about 9,000 tests for COVID-19 done at Diavik Diamond Mine since testing was introduced in May.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Presumptive case of COVID-19 reported at Diavik mine in Canadian Northwest Territories, CBC News

Greenland: Greenland prolongs COVID-19 assembly limits until 2021, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland reinstates COVID-19 restrictions after spike in domestic infections, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Climate change hits back at Svalbard, coal mine flooded by melting glacier in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia’s Murmansk region counts more COVID-19 cases than neighboring Norway or Finland, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedish authorities tasked with preparing for second coronavirus wave, Radio Sweden

United States: Two Conoco employees in Alaska’s Arctic test positive for COVID-19, Alaska Public Media

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