OPERATIONS  at the Ok Tedi mine will continue as long as it’s safe and economical to do so, says Ok Ted Mining Limited Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Peter Graham.

Mr Graham made these remarks after Papua New Guinea announced yesterday (Thursday 16th April) that it had five new COVID-19 cases, of which three were from border villages adjacent to the mine’s Bige dredging project in the Western Province.

Mr Graham said none of the three cases are employees or contractors of OTML.

“Ok Tedi operations will continue while we can do so safely, including at Bige and Kiunga where lockdown restrictions are being applied to the general public for a period to be determined. Contact tracing and additional testing in the local villages will inform this decision,” he said.

OTML understands that a team from the National Department of Health is on the ground to do assessments and conduct contact tracing.

Mr Graham said the Company’s main priority at the moment is the health and safety of its employees, contractors and communities.

“Our highest priority is to do everything we practically can to keep the virus out of our work areas and communities. Maintaining safe operations at Ok Tedi is important for us and for the national economy,” he said.

OTML has been implementing stringent control measures since February to prevent the virus entering its operational areas. These measures have included cancelling all bookings for international and domestic travellers scheduled to return to Tabubil, screening everyone entering Tabubil and its Bige and Kiunga operation sites, disinfecting aircraft, buses and public areas, and carrying out awareness to employees and communities on good hygiene practices and on ways to prevent transmission of COVID-19.

PNG Prime Minister Hon. James Marape yesterday announced that apart from the three cases from Western Province, one was in Port Moresby and the other was in East New Britain.