A peaceful demonstration was held in Tabubil on Tuesday 6th October by a small group of settlers and locals expressing their concerns regarding the restrictions imposed by the Company to enter the mining township. These restrictions have affected school students who have not been able to attend classes for the past several weeks.
In addressing the concerns raised, OTML Managing Director & CEO, Musje Werror stated that the restrictions were necessary to safeguard the health and safety of its workforce, town residents and the communities and to sustain the safe operations of the mine. He added that Tabubil has recorded 188 COVID-19 positive cases with 6 very recent cases coming from people living in the nearby communities, three of which were students.
Mr Werror said, “We understand the frustrations, but the restrictions and control measures are necessary to stop the spread and prevent the virus from affecting our people and the operations. We are also thankful that there have been no severe cases and no COVID-19 related deaths.”
“OTML is not stopping schools from resuming, however the township is currently locked-down to control COVID-19. Students living outside the town attending school each day increases the risk of the virus entering the town, so we need to ensure appropriate controls are in place for the schools to operate safely”.
He added that since 12th September there have been no further positive cases identified in Tabubil and all recent positive cases have been from the nearby communities.
OTML currently conducts a major testing program of the workforce. All personnel are required to undertake 7 days of quarantine at an Entry Point Centre on site or in Port Moresby and return a negative test result for COVID-19 prior to commencing work. Equally, all personnel must return a negative test result prior to leaving site for their break to ensure they are not transmitting the virus to their home communities.
“As of today, we have done almost 12,000 tests and we are doing around 130 tests per day for the workforce.” Mr Werror said.
He said that some testing has been conducted in the communities living outside the township, however OTML will be supporting the Western Provincial Health Authority to increase the community testing program.
“Community testing is critical to determine how widespread the virus is in the surrounding areas in order to ensure the appropriate controls and intervention measures are implemented which also includes a Community Isolation Centre currently being constructed in Tabubil for symptomatic cases requiring additional assistance.” Mr Werror said.
OTML will continue to work closely with community leaders to address issues relating to the restrictions and control measures.
Operations at Ok Tedi were recently suspended for 6 weeks from August 5 to September 14 due to COVID-19 cases being reported in Tabubil. During the suspension, the mine lost about USD20 million per week in revenue which directly impacted foreign currency inflows into the country.