Juneau miners are getting vaccinated, with help from their employers

Greens Creek Mine
Greens Creek Mine. (Photo courtesy Hecla Mining Company)

Operators of two large mines near Juneau said at least a quarter of their personnel is already partially vaccinated. Anyone 16 or over who lives or works in Alaska is eligible for a vaccine.

Mine operators said they don’t have any incentive program to encourage workers to get vaccinated. Instead, they help with scheduling appointments and providing transportation to vaccination clinics if it’s in the middle of a work shift.

Rochelle Lindley of Coeur Alaska’s Kensington Mine north of Juneau said the timing is a challenge. They must plan around workers’ three-week on, three-week off schedule whether they live in Juneau or out of state.

“Some people are commuting, some people are here in town,” Lindley said. “Our staff is working really hard to try and accommodate those schedules, working on logistics with employees, the scheduling, working out transportation, hotels if needed, meals, and then working with some local clinics to schedule vaccination appointments for our employees.”

Lindley said 370 people work at Kensington Mine.

Hecla Mining Company’s Mike Satre said out-of-state workers typically quarantine in Juneau for five days before heading out to the Greens Creek Mine on Admiralty Island. He said quarantine protocols may eventually be relaxed for those who are fully vaccinated.

“Ultimately, we hope that when we have a substantial number of vaccinated employees at the mine that’s going to coincide with a substantial number of vaccinated residents, and whether it’s the state or the city, we’ll be able to make changes in travel and testing requirements,” Satre said.

Satre said 450 people work at Greens Creek Mine.

Lindley said about 25 employees tested positive at the mine site or while in quarantine back in August. But she said they haven’t had any similar outbreaks since they instituted “robust testing strategies.”

Satre said they had an “amazingly low” number of positive cases detected in quarantine.

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