To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, energy company Eesti Energia will temporarily shut down underground processes at the Estonia mine and send some 800 miners home.
An employee of the Estonia mine tested positive for the coronavirus, Eesti Energia announced on Thursday. The employee was in close contact with at least 16 co-workers who have been referred to testing for COVID-19, according to Andres Vainola, Chairman of the Management Board of Enefit, a subsidiary of Eesti Energia.
"For the time being, we are shutting down the underground processes for two days to get an overview of the number of people affected. After that we can take subsequent decisions and if necessary, close down the mine for a longer period of time. We will talk to the unemployment fund and unions regarding additional measures and then decide on continuing the work," Vainola said.
"It is important to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. We have taken all measures to contain the spread but the working process still involves close contact. This is why we have made this decision," Vainola added.
Vainola confirmed that the suspension of operation at Estonia mine will not cause any disturbances in electricity production as oil shale supplies total around 1.5 million tons - enough to last for several months.
Eesti Energia will be able to cover up to 70 percent of staff salaries. The company has set up a crisis committee led by chairman of the supervisory board Hando Sutter.
"Nobody wants to get sick so we intend to request the management to let us sit at home for a month, if necessary. Everyone understands that this is a temporary loss. It is better to over-react now so we could continue working later," Estonia mine trustee Eduard Bogens told ERR.
Editor: Anders Nõmm