Rio Tinto’s Amrun bauxite facility in Weipa.
Rio Tinto’s Amrun bauxite facility in Weipa.

Cape Fear: Worker tests positive after mine visit

A RIO Tinto worker has tested positive for COVID-19 after flying out of Weipa sparking fresh calls for a total lockdown of north Queensland.

Queensland Health officials have done contract tracing for the Brisbane-based employee and briefed staff at the $2.6 billion Amrun bauxite mining project, south of Weipa on western Cape York.

Rio Tinto said the worker, who is not a FIFO contractor, only felt unwell five days after he flew out and was not believed to infectious with the deadly virus while at the remote township two weeks ago.


But Weipa locals and staff are demanding a more detailed briefing about the case - along with unconfirmed reports three other sick miners have been flown out for testing from different mining camps in the state's northwest.

FIFO contractors have been relocated to Weipa for at least 6 months to reduce the risk of transmission and to support mining operations, Rio Tinto Weipa general manager Brad Welsh said, in a public letter.

Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in QLD


"It is absolutely critical that we do everything we can to keep COVID-19 out of our local communities," Mr Welsh said.

"This includes Weipa, Napranum, Mapoon, and more broadly all remote communities across the Cape.''

Rio estimates it contributes $160m a year in salaries and wages to the Cape region and if operations were to stop it would have a grave impact on access to essential goods and services.


Rio Tinto’s Amrun bauxite facility in Weipa.
Rio Tinto’s Amrun bauxite facility in Weipa.

Federal Kennedy MP, Bob Katter, said the mining industry and food producers in north Queensland are "uniquely vulnerable" to outsiders importing the virus into unaffected regional and rural areas.

"All fly in, fly out (FIFO) operations must stop immediately,'' Mr Katter said.

"If they want to work here, they must stay here."

He said north Queensland should be isolated "like an island" in a line from Mackay to Winton to the Northern Territory border.



"We've got miners flying in from all over the state, and backpackers coming from all over the place to work on the farms and in the packing sheds, all working and living in close proximity to each other.

"This is a national emergency, we need to cordon off regional centres and lock down north Queensland now.''

Originally published as Cape Fear: Worker tests positive after mine visit