Miners in the region have assured the community all steps are being taken to minimise the risk of COVID-19 at its worksites.

The reassurance comes after the recent COVID scare at Idemitsu’s Boggabri Coal where an employee initially returned a positive result after testing.

The low level COVID detection required workers to isolate on-site while secondary testing was conducted.

This test returned a negative result and employees were permitted to go home but not before widespread speculation had filtered through the community about a potential lockdown.

An Idemitsu Australia Resources spokesperson said all COVID management protocols, such as increased hygiene practices in line with NSW Health requirements, continue to be followed across all its mine sites, including Boggabri.

“A comprehensive COVID management plan is in place which includes social distancing, separation of personnel while travelling on site, end of shift separation of personnel, facilities and amenities cleaning, authorised access to site only – no visitors, controls in place for delivery drivers and provision on site of a COVID isolation room,” the spokesperson said.

“Most importantly, we provide specific communication and reinforcement of relevant COVID information and management controls to site personnel, including the role they have in minimising the risk to our local communities which includes reinforcing the requirement for our personnel to monitor and adhere to all government directives related to COVID restrictions.”

A spokesperson for Whitehaven Coal, which operates several mine sites around the region including one of the biggest, Maules Creek, said the mining industry has been at the forefront of initiatives to protect the safety of workers and communities.

“Contingency planning, including in relation to COVID-19, is a key part of our enterprise risk management framework,” the spokesperson said.

“Since early 2020, we have had a range of protective measures in place such as temperature testing, provision of hand sanitiser and increased cleaning, and social distancing and use of masks where necessary.

“More recently, following the latest public health advice, we have strengthened protective measures, including requiring masks in all indoor offices, vehicles and buses.

“We have also implemented additional precautionary measures such as requesting office staff to work from home, limiting non-critical travel and rescheduling non-urgent contract work to further reduce the spread.”

Some enquiries have been raised in the community about the potential risk of employees travelling from identified COVID hotspots.

But Whitehaven said this was negated by a predominantly local workforce and extra provisions for high-risk areas such as Sydney.

“As a major local employer, and with around 75 per cent of our workforce residing in the areas around our operations, our clear focus has been on adopting measures to keep our community safe and our people working,” the spokesperson said.

“We do not permit anyone from the Sydney LGAs of concern to travel to the region and have a robust pre-screening process in place to ensure the risk of exposure is minimised.

“Consistent with our approach throughout the pandemic, we’ll continue to refine our approach based on changing conditions and in compliance with public health orders.”

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