Rio relocates 700 workers to WA

RIO Tinto Iron Ore has relocated 700 employees with “specialist skills” to Western Australia to beat the state’s border shutdown.
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Rio has relocated 700 workers to WA to enable the continuation of iron ore operations in the Pilbara

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WA closed its borders to interstate and international visitors last night to protect the state from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rio said it had also made roster changes to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Last week, more than 1200 employees at two Pilbara sites, Yandicoogina and Greater Brockman Operations, started new two week on, two week off rosters.

Roster changes at the Rio's other Pilbara sites in the Pilbara, involving more than 3500 people, are also being rolled out to reduce the travel frequency in and out of the region.

Additional charter flights from Qantas and Virgin Australia have been secured to allow for social distancing measures in planes and airports.

All employees are subject to temperature checks before boarding flights, while sites have introduced ‘controlled zones' where no people movements occur, other than for shift changes.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said the company's number one priority was the health and safety of its people and communities.

"We will continue to strengthen measures throughout our operations and at airports to ensure we are doing everything we can to put the health and safety of people first," he said.

"These measures mean we can keep our operations running, to ensure we continue delivering products to our customers and make a strong contribution to the Western Australian and Australian economies at a very challenging time."

At a group level, Rio has committed US$25 million globally to support the COVID-19 fight, including manufacturing hand sanitiser and donating medical equipment, as well as supporting funding for local community projects and partnerships.

The company has also contributed to the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia's COVID-19 Community Support Initiative to benefit local communities throughout the state.

The CME said Albemarle, AngloGold Ashanti, BHP, Chevron Australia, CITIC Pacific Mining, Fortescue Metals Group, Gold Fields, Gold Road Resources, Mount Gibson Iron, Newcrest Mining, Ramelius Resources, Regis Resources, Roy Hill, Saracen Mineral Holdings, South32, Talison Lithium, Transalta Australia and Woodside Energy had also contributed to the initiative, with further companies set to finalise their investment over the coming days and weeks.

The initiative will provide a A$6.6 million to be distributed between three organisations - Foodbank WA, Lifeline WA and Royal Flying Doctor Service Western Operations.

Rio made a separate $15 million donation to the RFDS in February to fund the purchase of WA's third state-of-the-art Rio Tinto LifeFlight PC-24 jet.