Red Dog Mine tightens protocols after COVID-19 cases

A few small buildings and gravel pits are seen from across blue water below mountains
Red Dog Mine (as seen from Anxiety Ridge), Alaska. Red Dog is 90 Miles north of Kotzebue, 50 miles inside the Arctic Circle. (Flickr photo by Jim)

Several cases of COVID-19 have been reported since the beginning of September at the Red Dog Mine in Northwest Alaska, leading to tighter restrictions at the facility. 

Two cases among residents at the mine were reported about a week apart by Maniilaq Association, the regional healthcare organization. One of the cases was reported from a Sept. 10 test in a resident of Kotzebue. Before that, a Kivalina resident tested positive for COVID-19 in a Sept. 5 test. Both were isolating at Red Dog and were asymptomatic, according to Maniilaq, which reports cases of residents of the Northwest Arctic Borough. 

An out-of-state contractor also reportedly tested positive on Sept. 15, according to a company spokesperson. NANA Regional Corporation, which owns Red Dog land, has reported other sporadic cases over the past several months. 

In an email, Laura Kayuqtuq Orenga de Gaffory a spokesperson for Teck Alaska, the mine’s operator, wrote that in response to the most recent cases, the mine has tightened some protocols.

Red Dog now requires all personnel to wear a KN95 face mask and has closed down dining, recreation and public areas. Personnel are required to eat meals in their rooms. 

Red Dog previously required social distancing in public areas and required employees from out of the area to wear KN95 masks in public until they received a negative COVID-19 test. The new protocols, which began on Sept 15, extend those requirements to all employees, even after they receive a negative result. 

Orenga de Gaffory also said that Red Dog suspended outbound travel from the mine to regional communities on Sept. 16. She wrote that the company is working with the Northwest Arctic Borough and the regional communities to restart travel as soon as possible.

Red Dog is one of the world’s largest zinc mines and employs many NANA shareholders from regional communities.