Ekati diamond mine in N.W.T. suspends operations in response to COVID-19

Dominion Diamond Mines says none of the mine's employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time, but it's suspending operations as a precaution.

Dominion Diamond Mines says no employees have tested positive, suspension is preventative

An aerial view of the Ekati mine, 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. Dominion Diamond Mines announced Thursday evening it is suspending operations at the mine amid concerns about COVID-19. (Dominion Diamond Corporation)

Dominion Diamond Mines is suspending operations at its Ekati mine in the Northwest Territories to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In a statement Thursday evening, Dominion said none of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19, but the move is a preventative action.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the N.W.T., and 222 tests had come back negative, according to the territorial government. 

Dominion's statement says the decision was made given the rapid spread of COVID-19, the remote location of Ekati's mine operations, and the high frequency of air travel required for employees and support staff to access mining operations.

The mine is located about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. 

Dominion said a minimal care and maintenance crew will stay on to maintain the mine during this interim period.

The company said there is no timeline for when the suspension may be lifted. It said it will provide updates when they become available.

A spokesperson for the Diavik Diamond Mine said Thursday morning it is still operating at full capacity. (2015 DDMI Sustainable Development Report )

Diavik still operating at full capacity

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Rio Tinto, which runs the Diavik diamond mine, told CBC News on Thursday morning that it continues to operate at full capacity.

That mine is also located about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

The spokesperson said employees have been asked not to go to work if they feel unwell or believe they had been exposed to COVID-19. Those returning to work following international travel have been advised to notify their manager and work from home for 14 days.

The spokesperson said Diavik has also cancelled all non-business-critical travel to the mine and has introduced health screenings to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 transmission. 

With files from Donna Lee and Walter Strong