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Alrosa halts mine after several cases of covid-19

The International diamond mine, close to the town of Mirny, produced 2.2 million carats in 2019. (Image courtesy of Alrosa.)

Alrosa (MCX: ALRS), the world’s top diamond producer by output, has idled its International underground mine for up to two weeks, after several employees tested positive for covid-19.

The Russian miner said it would only carry out work to ensure the safety and maintenance of the site. It noted that workers and contractors will receive compensation in accordance with labour laws.

The Inter diamond mine produced 2.2 million carats in 2019, contributing around 6% of Alrosa’s total output

“The company has developed several scenarios of a quick response to the possible spread of the virus at its production sites,” chief executive Sergey Ivanov said in the statement. “In order to prevent an uncontrolled outbreak of the disease and a threat to the health of our employees, the company took a number of decisions under one of the scenarios.”

Alrosa has arranged a mass testing for everyone who works at the mine, known by locals as Inter, including employees from other divisions.

The diamond giant said it would consider bringing workers with negative tests and no virus symptoms back to work in a week.

The mine, close to the town of Mirny, is located the subarctic Russian republic of Sakha.

It opened in 1999 and yields some of the world’s highest diamond grades, at 8.09 carats per tonne.

It produced 2.2 million carats in 2019, contributing around 6% of the company’s total output.

Mounting woes

Last month, Alrosa had to suspend production at other two assets. That decision, however, was based on the dire state of the diamond market and not the pandemic.

The state-controlled miner said in March it may revise down its output guidance for 2020, which it did last month. Now Alrosa expects to produce between 28 and 31 million carats. In 2019, it produced 38.5 million carats.

Mining companies all over the globe are on high alert for coronavirus. Russia’s biggest gold operation, operated by Polyus PJSC, reported in May hundreds of positive cases.

The situation at Olimpiada mine in Siberia, which employs nearly 6,000 people, prompted Moscow to dispatch the army to assist.

Russia’s overall case count stands at 613,148, the third-highest in the world, with 8,594 deaths.