The union representing workers at a South West lithium hydroxide plant grappling with a COVID outbreak believes at least five people have so far tested positive — with the first infection confirmed as early as Sunday. US chemical company Albemarle on Tuesday confirmed multiple workers at its Kemerton Lithium Hydroxide Processing Plant — which is currently under construction — have been diagnosed with COVID but has so far refused to reveal the exact number. Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union WA state secretary Steve McCartney said he was aware of at least five positive cases among tradies working in construction and maintenance at the plant. It was rumoured on Tuesday that as many as 13 workers had contracted the virus while dozens more close contacts are in isolation awaiting testing results. Mr McCartney slammed the handling of the outbreak, claiming around 500 people worked on-site at the plant and almost all of them were “completely in the dark” about whether they had been exposed to COVID. “It’s been a bit of a disgrace to be perfectly honest, some people have been given some information while others have none,” he said. “That creates a genuine fear around infecting other (workers) but more importantly when they go home to their families, are they potentially infecting their partners and children?” Mr McCartney said workers were driven to the Kemerton site “on crowded buses” and that there had so far been “no visible increase in cleaning and no instigation of split shifts or staggered breaks”. He questioned whether Albemarle had a plan in place for handling COVID outbreaks — which Mr McCartney said should be a requirement for all mine sites and manufacturing operations enforced by the McGowan Government. The union stopped short of calling for the entire operation to be shut down while workers were tested, saying that was a decision for Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson. In a statement on Tuesday, an Albemarle spokesman said all workers at the Kemerton plant were vaccinated and the site “continues to adhere to all COVID-19 WA health protocols”. “Since the recent confirmation of positive COVID-19 cases at the Kemerton site, the infected persons have been isolated, as well as close contacts,” he said. “Close contacts are being tested in line with WA Health protocols. The site is working with WA Health COVID-19 contact tracing. “The wellbeing and safety of our workforce and communities continues to be our priority.” Earlier on Tuesday, Mark McGowan said Bunbury’s first COVID-19 cluster in almost two years had grown to seven cases. The Premier said one mystery case in the Greater Bunbury region was under investigation and six cases had been identified in one family.