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COVID-19 testing in Tabubil, Papua New Guinea. Image: Ok Tedi Mining.

Ok Tedi Mining has commissioned a mass COVID-19 testing program for its employees after announcing a two-week suspension of the Papua New Guinean (PNG) operation.

The company has already completed 4000 test samples, which will be sent to Australia for analysis.

The mass testing program covers all of the Ok Tedi mine site’s work areas, including its wharf and dredging operations.

Testing has also been provided to personnel working in Port Moresby, PNG, and at its regional PNG exploration sites.

The majority of Ok Tedi’s workforce is in PNG, which has suffered a spike in COVID-19 infections in March.

However, the company also employs  fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers from Australia.

Last week, Australia announced it would bar FIFO travel in and out of PNG due to the rising COVID-19 cases in the country.

Ok Tedi health manager Charlie Turharus said the mass testing program had found that almost all positive cases were not severe.

“Fortunately, almost all the cases we have recorded are asymptomatic or only showing mild to moderate symptoms,” he said.

“Our priority is the safety, health and wellbeing of all our personnel, and we will ensure that this mass testing program is implemented successfully so that we contain the spread of the virus and resume safe productions.”

The testing program is designed to enable Ok Tedi to return to operations after the two-week suspension is lifted.

Ok Tedi started its suspension on Friday March 19.

The Ok Tedi (Mt Fubilan) copper-gold-silver mine in PNG produced 4.83 million ounces of copper, 14.8 million ounces of gold and 32.7 million ounces of silver from 1984 to 2018.