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Implementing COVID-Safe controls in the resources sector in Papua New Guinea

PROJECT

Advisory services for the Resources Sector in PNG 

Background

The resources sector underpins the economy of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and, consequently, any mining shutdown has negative consequences for the PNG economy, with potential flow-on effects to delivery of government services such as health and education.

 A COVID-19 outbreak in PNG in early 2021 caused many of the mines to temporarily stop operations as a containment measure in order to manage the outbreak. Since then, the prevalence of COVID-19 in PNG has increased, as has the risk of another shutdown in the resources sector. In response to this, the resources sector has invested significant resources to strengthen COVID-19 controls and management systems. Additionally, in March 2021 the Australian Government imposed restrictions on the movement of expatriate resource sector workers between Australia and PNG, due to the risk of transmission to the Australian community.

 Aspen Medical supports PNG’s resource sector, as an independent partner, to overcome these challenges. Working within the unique cultural, political and geographic environment of PNG, we provide advisory services on COVID-19 infection protection and control (IPC) measures to members of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum to minimise the risks faced by mining operations and the safety of the staff and local communities in which the mines operate.

 By using a codesign approach  with individual mines, we have been able to:

  • assess the effectiveness COVID-19 management systems pertaining to fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers
  • provide recommendations to mining operations, based on an extensive review
  • assist one of the major mining companies to control a COVID-19 outbreak.

Importantly, even though each of the mining companies had different team sizes, locations and dynamics, with the mines spread throughout PNG, and were dealing with different issues, all mines had successful outcomes. We have been successful working with our partners – mining companies in PNG.  Our clients embraced our analysis and health intelligence and worked collaboratively with our specialist multidisciplinary team to gain the most benefit from the advisory service offered.

Challenges

  • Geographically spread
  • Multiple stakeholders
  • Limited in-country specialist health expertise
  • Some quarantine arrangements outside the control of the mining sector