Hudbay is seeking to defend itself against claims of COVID-19 having popped up at its flagship mine in Peru.
While the company has stated there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 at any operations, Ottawa-based advocacy group MiningWatch Canada claimed in June that the company had seen at least 21 cases of COVID-19 at its Constancia mine in Peru.
Hudbay has not administered detailed “molecular tests” at first on Peru-based employees, using a quick test instead. Some employees tested positive on the quick tests, but all who tested positive later tested negative on the molecular tests.
“In June, MiningWatch asserted that 21 Hudbay workers in Peru had tested positive for
COVID-19. The cases they are referring to were identified as positive through a quick test but were later confirmed negative with further molecular testing,” read a statement from a Hudbay spokesperson.
“A positive result from a quick test does not indicate a confirmed COVID-19 case. If a quick test comes back positive, we then refer the case to the public health authorities for further molecular testing and ensure the affected personnel are appropriately quarantined. If or when molecular tests by health authority certified labs become more readily available, these tests will be added to our protocol and used in place of quick tests, as circumstances warrant.”
Last month, Peruvian human rights organization Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras (DHSF) and MiningWatch responded to a Hudbay statement made earlier this summer, saying the group had issued information showing positive cases of COVID-19 within the company’s Constancia mine operations.
“It is reported that 42 people have tested positive through rapid testing in the Livitaca district where the Constancia mine (Chilloroya) operates,” reads a translated version of the report.
When reached out to for a response, Hudbay said that the report sourced in the DHSF article did not attribute the new cases to the Constancia mine itself.
“The report does not attribute the cases to Constancia's mine site. The 42 positive tests raised in the report were, in fact, administered to incoming workers in Cusco and those workers did not travel to our site unless follow-up testing confirmed they were COVID-19 negative,” reads the statement from a Hudbay spokesperson.
“Hudbay currently has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at any of its operations. We continue to work with our health and safety committees and local health authorities in Peru and Manitoba where our focus remains on keeping employees and communities safe by implementing a number of health and safety measures.”
Operations at Hudbay’s Manitoba mines and facilities, including the Flin Flon mill and 777 and Lalor mines, have operated with minimal closures since COVID-19 broke out. Miners walked off the job at the company’s sites earlier this year to protest the company transporting workers in from outside Manitoba, with a deal being reached and workers heading back underground not long after.
One Hudbay employee in Manitoba did test positive for COVID-19 - their case was deemed to be related to travel and the employee was diagnosed and self-isolated before reporting to work.
“Each of Hudbay’s business units has developed effective site-specific measures to identify and limit COVID-19 exposure and transmission and maintain a safe environment for workers and surrounding communities,” reads the Hudbay statement.
Employees at Manitoba operations undergo temperature checks and screenings on-site, with physical distancing protocols in place including limits on the number of workers allowed in small spaces, including the mine shaft cage, at any given time. Those measures remain in place, while Hudbay workers travelling to work from other regions are under different rules.
“In Manitoba, all workplace health and safety measures previously communicated in the bulletin posted in the June 22 update remain in effect, except for the 14-day isolation periods for all employees and contractors coming from or travelling to the northwest part of Saskatchewan, as the active COVID-19 cases in the region now present a low risk.
Each person travelling from the low-risk jurisdictions of northeastern Ontario undertakes a COVID-19 test prior to their travel to Manitoba. Once the employee has a confirmed negative
test, indicating they are healthy to begin their journey, a safe travel questionnaire is complete,” said the Hudbay statement.
“Self-isolation for residents of Southern Ontario and all other provinces remain in
Effect. Hudbay’s top priority is the health and safety of its workers. Hudbay will continue to monitor the situation in the regions it operates in and measures will be adapted to the regional health authorities’ latest restrictions and guidelines.”