COVID-19 CONCERN: After a BMA Blackwater Mine worker became infected with the coronavirus, there were fears that it may have originated from the mine site or somewhere in the Rockhampton community.
COVID-19 CONCERN: After a BMA Blackwater Mine worker became infected with the coronavirus, there were fears that it may have originated from the mine site or somewhere in the Rockhampton community.

Mystery surrounds origin of CQ miner’s COVID-19 infection

IT remains a mystery just how the Rockhampton-based miner from BHP Mitsubishi Alliance's Blackwater mine was infected with COVID-19 earlier this month.

Keppel MP Brittany Lauga and union representatives continue to discuss their concerns with BMA regarding the miner and their fears that the virus may be lurking undetected at the site.

Ms Lauga said pandemic responders needed to act quickly on the case given that contact tracers had been unable to identify how the man contracted the virus.

Given that the man hadn't returned from overseas or had contact with anyone from overseas, it was suspected that he picked it up through community transmission, either at the mine site or somewhere in Rockhampton.

PANDEMIC FIGHT: Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga deeply concerned about any possible instances of community transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
PANDEMIC FIGHT: Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga deeply concerned about any possible instances of community transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

While being unsure whether it was logistically practical to do so, Ms Lauga suggested to BMA that they should undertake blanket testing of everyone at their Blackwater mine site to identify if anyone was inadvertently carrying the virus without showing any symptoms.

"I said (to BMA to) speak to Chief Health officer to see if feasible," Ms Lauga said.

"We rely on people being honest about this. If someone is unwell and are going to work, the carrier can spread it very easily."

Discussions are ongoing between BMA and the Queensland Government regarding Ms Lauga's proposal for blanket testing.

BMA reiterated the miner was not symptomatic or contagious while he was on site and they have kept all of the key stakeholders updated on the steps being taken.

A BHP spokesperson confirmed that the additional tests conducted by Queensland Health for those colleagues and family members who had close contact with the COVID-19 positive worker, had all come back negative.

BHP General Manager Tom Lukeman sent an email to the mine's staff on Monday updating them on the situation.

"BMA, OS (Operation Services) and Queensland Health continue to have regular contact with our teammate, from Operations Services Maintenance, who has a confirmed case of COVID-19. Pleasingly, he remains in good spirits, and is still only experiencing minor symptoms," Mr Lukeman said.

"He is also implementing the Queensland Health mandate of remaining quarantined to one room in his home - and his immediate family has been tested for COVID-19.

"Queensland Health has reiterated the individual was not considered to have been infectious during his most recent time on site between Thursday, March 26 and Wednesday, April 1, and our collective social distancing efforts meant there were very few close contacts, and the risk of exposure in the workplace in this case is very low."

 

"The priority now for Queensland Health, is to determine the source of the infection, and I want to reiterate that there is no evidence that it originated in Blackwater," Mr Lukeman said.

"We are working closely with them to provide any and all information that is requested from us.

"The Blackwater IMT, which was stood up over a month ago in response to COVID-19, is now meeting twice a day and there is a continual sense of heightened chronic unease and strong reaction to any issue that might pose a risk to your health and wellbeing.

"This is the correct way to approach this evolving situation, but I want to acknowledge that maintaining this level of intensity is challenging for each of us."

What is reassuring he said, was hearing directly from the frontline about how staff were responding maturely and with compassion for their teammates.

"We're stronger together, and we all have a part to play in keeping each other safe and limiting the spread of Coronavirus," he said.

"Please, maintain your social distancing and uphold the highest hygiene practices, at site, while travelling to and from site and while off shift, either at home or in the accommodation villages - and in the community.

"Most importantly though, if you are feeling unwell, please self-declare and stay home - this is your obligation and I need each of you to do your bit. BHP has support mechanisms in place for employees, and contractors and labour hire workers who become unwell during this time."

Mr Lukeman warned that his leadership team would take a hard line approach with individuals who blatantly disregarded the social distancing protocols, either on site, while on public transport, or in their accommodation villages.

"Those who fail to follow the protocols will not be permitted to return to site, and we will be acting swiftly. Now is not the time for games," he said.

"In these complex and challenging times, I encourage you to reach out to your Line Leader if you have any concerns or questions, or any new ideas about how we can strengthen our controls and precautions.

"The BHP COVID-19 hotline is also available to answer your questions at any time."



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