Coronavirus: BHP reduces staff at Jansen potash project, announces accelerated payment plan

Seats blocked off on the BHP coach between Saskatoon and the Jansen potash project site. Only one person may sit in the clear rows, according to BHP.
Seats blocked off on the BHP coach between Saskatoon and the Jansen potash project site. Only one person may sit in the clear rows, according to BHP. BHP / Supplied

BHP says it is implementing “stringent measures” at its Jansen potash mine project east of Saskatoon to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

The company also said it is putting in place an accelerated program to support Indigenous and local community businesses by ensuring faster payments of invoices.

Work at the project is being streamlined, with a reduced crew installing a final liner on one production and service shaft instead of multiple shafts, the company said.

READ MORE: Tips to support small business during the coronavirus crisis

Giles Hellyer, vice-president of operations for BHP Potash, said the changes align with both provincial and federal emergency measures.

“The health, safety and well-being of our personnel and our communities is our primary concern and we have been implementing measures to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in our offices and at the Jansen potash project site and nearby communities,” Hellyer said in a statement Thursday.

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“In support of government requirements, and in keeping with our safety commitments, we are now reducing activity with fewer people on site.”

BHP said crews will work split-shifts, reducing the number of contractors at the site and the need to bring in out-of-province workers.

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Changes have also been made to transportation arrangements, meetings and camp life to ensure social distancing, company officials said, adding there is also an increase in hygiene practices.

The accelerated payment program will ensure roughly $3 million is delivered more quickly to its business partners, BHP said.

Payment terms have been reduced from 30 days to seven days, and the company said it will make immediate payment on outstanding invoices.

“We also know this is a very difficult time for the local business community and we must look out for each other to manage through this together,” Hellyer said.

“That’s why we’ve brought in faster payment measures to help bridge the gap for our local business partners and support for communities during these unprecedented events.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan athlete Brock Weston recounts falling ill with COVID-19

Hellyer said it is important to keep operations going at the site to support the community, but the company will also proceed based on directives from both levels of government.

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“By continuing with some reduced activity on site, we can continue to provide some employment and support for the local economy,” he said.

“However, this is a rapidly evolving situation and we will continue to be aligned with provincial and federal responses as they evolve.”

BHP said the revised payment schedule starts the week of March 30 and it will contact eligible business partners with more information.

The company said it will also be supporting the supply of hygiene products to local community stakeholders.

READ MORE: Canada’s agriculture sector scrambling to offset consequences of COVID-19 crisis

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers across Canada are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. In Saskatchewan, international travellers are already required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the province.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.