CALGARY - Canada's oldest diamond mine is being shut down to protect workers and local communities from the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Calgary-based Dominion Diamond Mines ULC says in a message on its website that none of the employees at its Ekati Diamond Mine about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories has tested positive to date.

But it says it's taking the action given the rapid spread of the virus, the remote location of the Ekati mine's operations and the high frequency of air travel required for employees and support staff.

It says a small care and maintenance crew will stay on to maintain the mine for an undetermined period. According to the website, Ekati has about 1,800 employees.

BHP Billiton opened the Ekati mine in 1998. Dominion bought it in 2013.

Earlier this week, Toronto-based Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. announced it would send its local workforce of about 450 people home from its two Nunavut gold mines for four weeks with pay to protect them and their communities from the outbreak.


10:59ET 20-03-20