OceanaGold’s COVID-19 response was implemented again in late August when New Zealand entered into an Alert Level 4 lockdown. With most of the country now back to *Alert Level 2, read about how OceanaGold responded and took care of its workforce and the community.
On 17 August 2021, New Zealand’ Prime Minister announced at an evening press conference that New Zealand would move into a Level 4 lockdown at midnight that night, following a positive community case of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Since the start of the pandemic, New Zealand has had only limited cases of COVID-19 and has taken swift action under a four-level alert system to prevent the spread of the virus and protect New Zealanders’.
“We acted immediately,” said Dan Calderwood, Health, Safety and Environment Manager at OceanaGold’s Waihi Operation, in New Zealand’s North Island.
“With the Delta strain being more contagious and spreading rapidly across the globe, we had prepared for further COVID-19 related lockdowns,” he said. “We had recently undertaken scenario planning as part of the rollout of our COVID-19 Management Plan across the operation,” he said.
“In terms of what the lockdown looked like, specifically for Waihi, we needed to work with local government authorities and immediately ceased operations for two weeks in line with Alert Level 4 requirements.”
Outside Auckland, (which at the time of publishing is operating under Alert Level 3), New Zealand moved to Alert Level 3 on 31 August and Alert Level 2 on 7 September.
Eighteen months into the pandemic and with mining operations located across New Zealand, the United States and the Philippines, and offices in Australia and Canada, OceanaGold’s corporate policy and localised systems are now well embedded.
OceanaGold Health and Safety Manager, Bernie Murphy, said the company needed to ensure its operations and associated human resources remained flexible and adaptable.
“As part of this, communication with our employees is key, especially at the start of a lockdown period,” Bernie said.
“We need to be clear around who can and who can’t work remotely, which takes into consideration the type, nature and location of roles, and we need to provide comfort and security around wages, government subsidies and other entitlements,” she said.
“We all understand and can appreciate the impacts that lockdowns can have on health and wellbeing, and as a responsible miner we have a duty of care to make sure our employees, contractors and the broader community are safe. That includes providing support services to those who need it.”
OceanaGold’s COVID-19 response strategy is focused on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. The management measures fall into three key areas:
- Minimise the risk of employees’ contracting or spreading COVID-19 at work or during transit to or from work
- Have a well-informed workforce that can self-manage to reduce exposure risks to themselves and their families
- Develop specific and stringent operational continuity plans that reflect the specific requirements at each of our offices and operations and prevent our workplaces from becoming a potential source of transmission.
Key to implementation is an awareness of, and engagement with, regulatory agencies in each of its operational jurisdictions. OceanaGold also subscribes to the advice of the World Health Organisation and is consistently reviewing industry best practice to assess opportunities to reduce exposure to the virus.
In early 2021, with global vaccination programs commencing, OceanaGold released its COVID-19 Vaccination Statement of Position, outlining a commitment to support equitable global distribution of vaccines in line with jurisdictional strategies, programs and goals.
To achieve this OceanaGold has commenced planning for a workplace program to facilitate and support the uptake of vaccinations. In doing so, the company supports local, regional and national vaccination strategies and timelines.
*At the time of publishing, Auckland was at Alert level 3 with the rest of New Zealand at Alert Level 2.