British Columbia

Teck Resources confirms 25 cases of COVID-19 at its sites in East Kootenay

B.C.'s largest mining company, Teck Resources Ltd., has reported a total of 25 COVID-19 cases at two of its steelmaking coal mines and a construction project in the East Kootenay region of the province.

Cases are at Teck's Fording River and Elkview mines as well as construction project site

A road sign to one of Teck's mines in British Columbia. The company on Tuesday reported 25 cases of COVID-19 at its mines and a construction site in the East Kootenay. (Josh Pagé/CBC)

British Columbia's largest mining company, Teck Resources Ltd., has reported 25 cases of COVID-19 at two of its coal mines and a construction project in the Elk Valley in the province's East Kootenay region.

The company said Tuesday there are seven cases at the Fording River mine north of Elkford, B.C., as well as 14 cases at a construction project next to to the Fording River mine. It said there are four more cases at the Elkview mine, east of Sparwood.

"Teck has implemented enhanced response protocols and preventative measures to safeguard workers and local communities," the company said in a statement.

Some of the preventative measures include mandating the use of C95 or KN95 respirators for visitors and employees working indoors, reducing the workforce at the Fording River water treatment plant construction site and reducing the number of people staying at a housing facility for workers, according to the company.

"Teck is working closely with public health authorities and has taken all necessary steps to manage the risk of transmission, including tracing all potential contacts, disinfecting work areas, and directing all employees and contractors to self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate if required," the statement read.

'Let's hope it stays where it is'

The company has contacted the District of Sparwood and the District of Elkford to inform the municipalities on its response to the COVID-19 cases, according to the mayors of each community.

Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher said he believes the company is dealing with the cases "the best that it can."

"There's not very many cases actually in the [Elk] valley and they are isolating at home, as far as I know," he said.

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks said he wasn't surprised there are cases of the disease at the mines and construction site because of the large number of people working there. 

"At least Teck is taking active measures to contain it," Wilks said. "Let's hope that it stays where it is."

Wilks said he is reassured by the measures the company is taking to stop the spread of the disease, but he is unhappy that he had to learn about the cases from Teck and not from the province or the BC Centre for Disease Control.

"I think they could better identify where the COVID outbreaks are as opposed to clustering them into a certain area. That doesn't help us," he said. "I think they could be much more proactive."

Earlier this year, East Kootenay mayors expressed worry that an outbreak among Teck workers could spread to communities in the region.

In August, the province announced a COVID-19 outbreak at Teck's construction site near Elkford.

With files from Bob Keating