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Mining giants flag virus rules to stay even as restrictions start to ease


Rio Tinto, the nation’s second biggest minster, said its measures, including a five-layer screening at airports for fly-in, fly-out workers would continue “for as long as its required”.

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“As a company, we are going to have to learn to coexist with COVID-19 for an extended period of time,” Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said. “Our measures have been effective … and we will continue to implement measures.”

In response to a small increase in infections at BHP’s Chilean mines, Mr Henry said the miner had quickly enacted response plans and evacuated all workers suspected of having the virus for testing, isolation and medical care. As well as examining the potential to strengthen prevention measures further, BHP will trial a new contact tracing app at its Chilean operations from next week to act as an “additional safeguard”.

Developed by BHP’s technology and health and safety teams, the app identifies the movements of workers who become infected so the company can immediately sanitise the areas they have been and minimise the risk of transmission. If successful, the app will be deployed across other BHP sites in its mining and petroleum operations.

Companies across Australia’s mining sector have been contending with border closures limiting staff movements, but so far have been largely spared from the heaviest restrictions that have halted other industries after moving quickly to curb staff movements and set protocols at airports and mine sites. However, health risks remain a major concern in the indsutry and companies operating elsewhere in the world are still facing significant impacts and forced shutdowns.

During the pandemic, miners including BHP and Rio Tinto have also been investing in initiatives to assist communities and essential services cope with the strain of coronavirus.

Rio Tinto, which has committed $US25 million ($38 million) to coronavirus-related community projects globally, said funding initiatives in Australia included a $1.25 million investment in the Queensland Royal Flying Doctor Service announced this week.

Mr Jacques said further funding initiatives would include supplying masks and protective gear to health professionals, ventilation units, and education and literacy programs “as remote learning becomes the norm”.

“As we look ahead, our focus will be on those most in need, including Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islanders, victims of family and domestic violence, and those without access to essential
services and supplies,” Mr Jacques said.

BHP this week said it had allocated half of its $25 million “Vital Resources Fund” to 46 projects including healthcare, essential services and education in regional communities surrounding its operations.

“This funding is being delivered to the people and communities who need it the most, through the organisations and initiatives who are working hard to provide vital support through this difficult time,” BHP’s acting Australian operations president Edgar Basto said.

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