British Columbia

B.C. mayors worry Teck work camp could spread COVID-19 through the Kootenays

The mayors of Fernie, Elkford and Sparwood are calling for the closure of a large local work camp because of concerns the workers may spread COVID-19. 

Company says it has implemented additional measures to limit the spread of the virus

Teck resources is a huge economic force in British Columbia's Elk Valley located near the Alberta border in the province's southeastern corner. (Josh Pagé/CBC)

Doctors and mayors in British Columbia's East Kootenays say they're concerned about a local work camp that houses hundreds of people, fearing it could spread COVID-19 throughout the region.

Teck Resources operates the camp near Elkford in southeastern B.C. near the Alberta border. It can house more than 400 contractors and out-of-town workers employed at four coal mines in the surrounding Elk Valley. 

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks, along with the mayors of Fernie and Elkford, say the transient nature of the workers at the camp poses the biggest threat of spreading the novel coronavirus. 

Wilks added that officials recognize the economic importance of Teck facilities in the valley, but the risk of spreading COVID-19 outweighs those benefits.

Provincial orders don't apply

While doctors are urging the Elkford camp to shut down, the mayors are asking Teck to at least review the camp and delay upgrades to one of its nearby facilities until the virus is under control. 

The province's health orders to minimize the spread of COVID-19 don't apply to construction and large industrial sites

Teck says it has put measures in place to protect employee safety, including health screening for all visitors, enhanced disinfecting protocols and spacing out meal times to ensure workers stay more than two metres apart to abide by social distancing.

The company also says there haven't been any cases of COVID-19 at any of its facilities. Teck says the camp is currently under-capacity, with only 70 per cent of it occupied. 

With files from Bob Keating

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