31 August 2021
In a first for the Australian resource sector, BHP will begin trialling workplace-based vaccinations this week as it steps up its contribution to Australia’s road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The trial – the Australian resources sector’s first official pilot supported by the National COVID-19 Vaccination Taskforce – will be conducted at the Mt Arthur Coal Mine in New South Wales’ Upper Hunter region.
As part of its broader support for national vaccinations, BHP is also funding a new vaccine hub in Moranbah which opened to the Central Queensland community from Monday this week, is working with the SA Health Department to establish a mobile clinic at Olympic Dam to help bolster vaccination rates in the Roxby Downs region, and is working with the WA Health Department to support vaccine roll-outs in the Pilbara region.
The new measures are in addition to the controls that have been in place at in BHP workplaces since the start of the pandemic, to protect people and communities and keep operating safely. BHP has also helped to protect the vulnerable in its workforce and in communities through the $50 million Vital Resources Fund, and has provided support for small and local businesses.
BHP President Minerals Australia Edgar Basto said: “We have to work together in the fight against the COVID-19 Delta strain in Australia, and we are determined to play our part.”
“In line with the road map agreed by National Cabinet, we recognise that the path forward is through widespread vaccination, and we are looking at a range of practical ways to help Australia safely reopen its borders and its economy while protecting communities and workforces.
“The measures we already have in place are helping to keep our people safe and our operations running, and we hope our trials and broader program of support will help Australia take further steps forward in tackling the virus.
“Getting more Australians vaccinated more quickly will help protect communities and enable a safe return to more normal ways of working across all sectors and regions – benefiting small and large businesses alike.
“Our experience in our Chilean operations, where workplace and community vaccination hubs have helped get local vaccination rates to nearly 90 per cent, show it can be done well.”
BHP is undertaking and supporting a range of initiatives to support communities in regions where it operates:
- New South Wales – the Australian resources sector’s first official pilot of on-site vaccinations – at the Mt Arthur Coal mine near Muswellbrook – will begin on Thursday, 2 September. This is an official pilot supported by the National COVID-19 Vaccination Taskforce, and aims to help boost local vaccination rates and inform future workplace-based programs across Australia. Given the ongoing outbreak in NSW, BHP has also deployed rapid antigen testing for the Mt Arthur workforce to help prevent COVID-19 cases on-site, with more than 5000 tests administered to date.
- Queensland – in partnership with the Queensland Health Department, Mackay Hospital and Health Services and Vanguard, BHP has helped fund the conversion of an existing regional testing centre in Moranbah into a vaccination hub. It is one of the first vaccination hubs in the Bowen Basin and is expected to administer up to 500 vaccines each week. The clinic has been vaccinating front-line workers such as nurses and paramedics for some weeks, and opened to the Central Queensland community on Monday, 30 August.
- Western Australia – BHP is working with the WA Health Department to improve vaccination rates in the Pilbara, which are among the lowest in the state. This includes establishing a community vaccination hub in Newman to be operational in early October, and then potentially in Port Hedland.
- South Australia – BHP is working with the SA Health Department to set up a mobile vaccination clinic at Olympic Dam from early September, in conjunction with the clinic the department brings to Roxby Downs on a regular basis.
Actively assessing vaccination as a condition of workplace entry
In addition to its support for vaccine roll-outs, BHP is actively assessing vaccination as a condition of entry to BHP workplaces in Australia.
Mr Basto said: “BHP continually reviews the status and effectiveness of COVID-19 controls in line with the latest scientific evidence and expert health advice. The science is clear that widespread vaccination saves lives.
“As vaccinations become more accessible to all Australians, we have been encouraging our people to better protect themselves and their families and communities, and we will look for further opportunities to increase access and uptake of vaccinations.
“As a necessary control to protect the health and safety of our people and the communities where we operate, we are actively assessing vaccination as a condition of entry to our Australian sites and offices.
“We have an obligation to ensure our people are safe when they are at work, and to support the health of the regional communities where we operate. We respect individual choice and we will engage closely with our people as we move forward with this work.”
BHP expects to complete its technical assessment in September, with a policy likely to come into effect in early 2022, once people have had a reasonable opportunity to be fully vaccinated.