New Gold mine takes necessary steps to limit spread of COVID-19

Merna Emara
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The New Gold Rainy River site has been taking its necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. The mine, which employs about 800 individuals and about 500 contractors, says all measures have been put in place to make sure no one gets infected.

New Gold is a gold mining company that operates, develops and explores mineral properties. According to their website, the company’s mission is to be a leading intermediate gold producer, driving responsible and profitable mining in a way that creates sustainable, enduring value for their shareholders, their stakeholders and the environment.

According to Claude McKenzie, health and safety and security manager at New Gold, since the provincial announcement of COVID-19 on March 13, the mine has implemented mitigation measures and an action plan to screen all workers on site before every shift change.

“Screening is performed at every shift change by the nurse practitioner on site. That is about 350 people per shift change,” McKenzie said. “In the beginning it was a bit mesmerizing for them to cope with all these measures. It took just one week and people adapted very well. People were very responsive to the measures and I am happy to see people reminding each other to follow the physical distancing rules.”

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, New Gold has implemented safety measures to keep employees safe and production uninterrupted. These precautions entail employees self-monitor for any symptoms or signs of sickness.

“Social distancing was put in place from the first day,” McKenzie said. “We have surface cleaner and hand sanitizer that were given to all employees that were working on site. They were also given the instruction on how to use it so everybody coming to work was given hand sanitizer and surface cleaning solution.”

In the beginning, McKenzie said, the only people working at the mine were from the northwestern region to make sure they were not bringing anyone infected from anywhere else. When COVID started to slow down, workers started coming back from outside northwestern Ontario and outside Ontario.

McKenzie said people coming from outside northwestern Ontario were tested on site using a swab – the same test used by Public Health. The swabs are then submitted to the lab and the results are communicated to the workers.

Wearing masks is also mandatory to those who cannot maintain a two metre physical distance, due to the nature of their work.

“For example, two people travelling in the pickup truck,” McKenzie said “If they are using a company vehicle they have to wear a mask. If two plumbers cannot maintain the physical distance during their work hours they have to wear a mask.”

New Gold’s website also explains the corporate response plan, which includes eliminating all business travel that is not essential, asking those who were in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case to quarantine for 14 days, implementing frequent cleaning of high tough surfaces such as door knobs and providing hand sanitizers in common areas.

McKenzie also said the masks that are used on site are made by Indigenous communities. It is like a community united against one cause, McKenzie added.

To even up their infection control measures, McKenzie said the mine is in the process of getting testing devices once the potential suppliers get their approval from Health Canada.

Although preventative measures were hard in the beginning, McKenzie said it is well embedded now in their organization.

“We are receiving fantastic support from the employees and everyone in the organization,” McKenzie said.