OK Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) plans to restart its operations in the week commencing September 14, almost six weeks after it suspended operations on August 5 due to a number of COVID-19 cases that were reported in Tabubil.

The company made this announcement after it initiated a contact tracing, testing and an isolation program at the mine site.

To date over 3,000 samples have been collected with 143 positive COVID-19 cases identified in Tabubil. Employees and contractors who have tested positive have been isolated in controlled accommodation facilities and are all asymptomatic. Eighteen of these cases have since recovered.

“The testing programme has provided us critical information and after careful assessment we are now better informed to restart operations without compromising the health and safety of our employees, contractors and communities,” OTML Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Musje Werror, said.

He added that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant challenges to the business but has also presented opportunities for OTML to review and change the way it operates.

A major change necessary to commence operations is a change to the employee roster panels to accommodate 14 days isolation at designated Entry Point Centres. Returning employees and contractors are required to have a negative test result before they can travel to site and commence work.

“We are establishing Entry Point Centres or isolation facilities in Port Moresby, Lae, Kokopo, Mt Hagen, Kiunga, Tabubil and Cairns as well as at our dredging site in Bige to screen and test all our employees and contractors before they return to work.” Mr Werror said.

Since the operation was suspended, the Company has lost about USD20 million per week in revenue which has directly impacted foreign currency inflows into PNG. Whilst operations are suspended, OTML continues to incur a significant amount of its normal operating costs, and as a result losses approximating US$10 million per week which are being incurred during this time.