28/12/2021

As you are aware, COVID-19 infections are now prevalent in South Australia, in jurisdictions across the country and worldwide, driven by the extreme high transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

For practical reasons, testing obligations and contact definitions for members of the public entering South Australia have changed. However, the previously provided advice and contact arrangements described in the plan for the mining and energy sector, and the risk matrices for the critical services and infrastructure sector have not changed and highlight the critical importance of these measures designed to protect the day-to-day operational viability of the sector.

Given the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus in the community, the following general approaches are recommended for South Australia’s mining and energy sector:

  1. For residential sites, at a minimum, workers, irrespective of their home location, should return a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) result before presenting for duty. Pre-mounting polymerase chain reaction testing (PCR), as close to departure as possible, remains valuable.
  2. For residential sites, RAT with a testing frequency of no greater than 48 hours is recommended for all personnel who have arrived at site since 24 December 2021.
  3. For non-residential sites, RAT programs should be implemented in accordance with the criticality of operations, with a testing frequency of no less than 72 hours.
  4. Plans should be reviewed to swiftly respond to positive RAT results such as: immediate isolation of the suspected case, site-led contact tracing, and arrangements for obtaining rapid turnaround of confirmatory PCR tests.
  5. Considerations and plans should be reviewed for repatriating cases and contacts (separately), and for supporting individual quarantine on and/or off site.
  6. Arrangements should be reviewed for physical/time separation of crews to ensure entire teams are not taken offline by a single transmission event, with a particular focus on control rooms, communal messing and recreation arrangements.
  7. Site focus on PPE and distancing compliance management.

Incident response workflow

To assist sites to prepare, an updated workflow for company-centric approaches to positive cases (PDF 152.3 KB) has been developed, reflecting the learnings from the responses to incidents within the sector during the past week. The workflow describes the high-level, site-led response process until SA Health’s risk threshold is exceeded, and a priority CDCB investigation and contact tracing process is stood up, as has occurred in the sector over recent days. In short, the process involves the site conducting an initial assessment and taking immediate action, then contacting SA Health through the Department for Energy and Mining for further advice, then ongoing management by the site, with SA Health assistance in accordance with the risk profile of the incident.

Note that potential connection to Aboriginal communities remains a specific concern and should be an early focus in any incident response.

Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT)

RAT programs with PCR backup are now in place at sites across the sector.

SA Health are available to discuss testing programs and queries and the team can be contacted by email at health.covidrapidantigentests@sa.gov.au

Just a reminder that for anyone with symptoms PCR testing must be used, with RAT reserved for screening of asymptomatic workers. PCR must also be used to confirm any non-negative RAT result.

Agile use of RAT can assist in ensuring business continuity for critical work groups, and this should be part of the discussion with SA Health for incident responses.

Contact tracing

Site-led contact tracing is critical to controlling outbreaks and maintaining operational continuity. Copies of the online Contact Tracing training videos arranged with SA Health by the SA Chamber of Mines and Energy are available from both SACOME or DEM.

Some simple headings that might support initial data collection are included below, though sites should feel free to design something to suit their specific situation:

Contact tracing data collection table

Repatriation logistics

Repatriation of cases and contacts from remote sites is occurring in discussion with SA Health. Following the process flow in the revised COVID map, sites should make an assessment for discussion with SA Health. So far, this has involved private provision of flights for cases, specifically chartered flights (for example Royal Flying Doctor Service using existing site contracts); for contacts a mix of ‘isolate onsite’ and evacuation by more routine scheduled flights, potentially with extra spaced-seating, or ‘contacts only’ flights. Movements and quarantine arrangements in Adelaide have been determined in discussion with SA Health. Capacity within medi-hotels is likely to be a constraint, emphasising consideration of isolation options for employees who are close contacts and who do not have circumstances suitable for home quarantine.

Given likely coincident events at regional and remote sites across the South Australia, there is potential to reach logistics capacity (for example with RFDS), and sites are revisiting repatriation plans with their existing providers to address this potential constraint.

Booster programs

The importance of booster vaccination doses is now widely acknowledged, and forms an important part of the overall response to protecting our community and economy. The government approach to partnering with employers on-site vaccination programs is now wrapped within the Vaccine Administration Partners Program, coordinated by the Commonwealth Department of Health. Details are available online at Vaccine Administration Partners Program Panel.

While the extreme transmissibility of the Omicron variant is an undesirable twist on the pandemic, the preparations made across the sector during 2020 and 2021 have positioned the industry and the government to strongly respond to maintain worker and public health and safety, and operational continuity during this difficult period. The Department for Energy and Mining remains committed to working with you as we move into 2022.

Stay well,

Paul Heithersay
Chief Executive
Department for Energy and Mining

The information contained in this resources and energy industry update has been verified by the South Australian Government COVID-19 Public Information Function Support Group coordinated by SA Police.

The Department for Energy and Mining acknowledges Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of South Australia. We recognise and respect the cultural connections as the Traditional Owners and occupants of the land and waters of South Australia, and that they continue to make a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the State

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Read previous updates