AAP Finance

Virus halts PNG’s Ok Tedi copper mine

By AAP Newswire

Papua New Guinea's Ok Tedi copper and gold mine has suspended output for at least 14 days after seven workers tested positive for the coronavirus, the mine operator says.

The company was immediately suspending operation for at least two weeks "to limit further transmission and allow contact tracing, isolation and testing procedures to be implemented," Chief Executive Musje Werror said.

"We are hopeful resumption of operations will occur at the conclusion of the 14-day lockdown and quarantine period," Werror said in a statement on Thursday.

Reopening would depend on the results of contact tracing, he said.

The suspension, which began on Wednesday, is expected to cut the mine's copper output by about 4000 tonnes and gold production by about 12,000 ounces, the company said.

The disruption is the latest blow to the PNG economy, already suffering from a sharp drop in oil and gas prices that have hit exports of liquefied natural gas, while it battles a surge in coronavirus cases.

The suspension of mining at Ok Tedi is likely to reduce US dollar revenue to the government by about $US40 million, the company, which is 67 per cent owned by the national government and 33 per cent owned by the country's Western Province, said.

PNG recorded a record rise of 39 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking its tally to 153, with two deaths, said the controller of pandemic response, David Manning.

While the numbers are low compared with many other countries, they have jumped sharply over the past few weeks.

The source of transmission to the workers at Ok Tedi was a person who had travelled from the capital, Port Moresby, to the town of Kiunga, on a commercial flight on July 31, OTML said.

To prevent any further infections, the company has asked for all commercial air services to Kiunga to be halted, having already halted charter services into Tabublil, near the mine