The Western Australian Government is partnering with major resources companies and the state’s leading researchers to roll out COVID-19 testing among fly-in fly-out (FIFO) mining and resources workers who do not have symptoms.
The testing among FIFO workers is the second pillar of the DETECT (Defining and Monitoring the Prevalence of SARS CoV2 (COVID-19) in the Community) program, a joint initiative of the Department of Health and the WA research community.
The DETECT program will examine the prevalence of COVID-19 in key sectors of the WA community, and will help to provide greater certainty around possible undetected transmission of the disease in the State.
Last week the program was launched with the testing of students and staff at 80 public schools.
Today’s announcement is the start of the DETECT FIFO project led by Curtin University and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. It will engage with mining companies who are supporting the screening of workers for COVID-19.
It is expected that nearly 30,000 tests will be conducted during the life of the project.
While there is no evidence of community spread of COVID-19, it is hoped the DETECT program will further assist in developing an even stronger evidence base on which to make policy decisions and ease restrictions.
Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) Chief Executive, Paul Everingham, said the CME had established a COVID-19 Resources Research Fund to financially support the project, which its members had contributed more than $500,000 towards.
Financial contributors to the fund to date include AngloGold Ashanti Australia, BHP, CITIC Pacific Mining, Fortescue Metals Group, Glencore, Perenti Group, Regis Resources, Roy Hill and Rio Tinto. CME expects the list of companies involved to grow over the coming days.
BHP, Chevron Australia, Mineral Resources, Rio Tinto and Woodside Energy will also contribute substantially to the project through established screening and research mechanisms, as a result of recent significant investment and proactive work.
“The resources sector is one of the state’s largest employers, employing approximately 120,000 people, and the opportunity to use any screening processes throughout the sector to contribute to learning more about the virus is enormous,” Mr Everingham said.
“The WA resources sector is extremely supportive of including FIFO workers in the DETECT Project as it aligns with the sector’s commitment to keep its workforce and the wider community safe.”
Mr Everingham added that the study will position WA as a world leader in identifying prevalence in essential cohorts, validating testing techniques and informing broader academic research and provide valuable insight into COVID-19.
“Companies in the sector will be able to participate in the research on an ‘opt-in’ basis, with high volumes of tests able to be conducted,” he commented.