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COVID-19 testing in place at Gahcho Kué and Snap Lake mines

Some workers at the De Beers Gahcho Kué Mine and the Snap Lake Mine are being tested for COVID-19, according to De Beers Group, which operates both sites in the N.W.T.

Tests are being conducted on all outbound employees and contractors

De Beers said it has begun testing all outbound employees and contractors for COVID-19 at its Gahcho Kué and Snap Lake mines. (De Beers )

Some workers at the Gahcho Kué and Snap Lake diamond mines in the Northwest Territories are being tested for COVID-19, according to De Beers Group, which operates both sites.

Effective May 24, tests are being conducted on all outbound employees and contractors, with samples processed at the GuardRX lab recently established at Diavik diamond mine, according to a news release Tuesday from De Beers.

Previously the company had a small number of test kits available at Gahcho Kué, but they were never used because no one had exhibited symptoms.

The testing is in addition to a number of measures already in place, according to the company. Those include daily health monitoring, temperature checks of all employees and using dedicated charter flights that originate at private air terminals to reduce potential exposure while on board commercial aircraft or while transiting through public airport terminals.

According to an email from company spokesperson Terry Kruger, there are approximately 330 employees and contractors on site at Gahcho Kué.  A little more than half come from outside of the N.W.T. 

At the Snap Lake operation, which is no longer actively mining ore, there are about 15 people on site at any given time. About half those employees are from the N.W.T.

"Testing is especially important now as jurisdictions across Canada begin to relax measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19," said Lyndon Clark, general manager of the Gahcho Kué mine, in the release.  

"Testing will go a long way to prevent potentially asymptomatic individuals from transmitting the virus to their home communities and providing urgent and necessary support to employees who test positive."

The Gahcho Kué mine has remained in operation throughout the pandemic, though 15 Gahcho Kué employees and contractors were sent back to their home communities in March as a precaution against COVID-19.

According to Kruger, those employees have not returned to work at the mine.

"We are looking at options to bring some back to work with appropriate measures," he said.

The Gahcho Kué mine, located about 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, is a joint venture between De Beers Group and Mountain Province Diamonds. The Snap Lake mine is in early stages of closure.

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