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10 Apr 2020

JP Casey, Mining Technology

Covid-19 puts strain on relationship between mining companies and workers over competing interests of safety and economic production

"Disruption and tension: how Covid19 could impact mining", 2 April 2020.

...Miners across the world...have taken steps as drastic as closing down mines or quarantining whole parts of their operations, in order to protect employees and prevent the spread of the virus. Yet in a sector that is highly reliant on effective and predictable operations within its supply chain, any deviation from traditional working practices can trigger intense uncertainty...

The tight working conditions of mining facilities means workers are at the greatest immediate risk...The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), imposed a two-day lockdown in late March in the Haut-Katanga province, following the news that two people tested positive for Covid-19 in the provincial capital of Lumbabashi, while China Molybdenum’s Tenke Fungurume Mining placed its mine in the Lualaba province under quarantine...21-day nationwide lockdown in South Africa has unsettled the platinum group metals industry, with the country responsible for 75% of the world’s platinum production...Rio Tinto has placed restrictions on fly-in fly-out workers and closed social spaces at its Australian facilities, such as bars and gyms, which it hopes will help stop the spread of the virus...

Relations between miners and mine owners could be one of the most strained in the long-term. Mining unions across the world are already struggling to ensure their members are treated fairly and safely at work, and those mines that remain open during the pandemic will be doing little to reassure unions...US unions, such as the United Mineworkers of America, are caught between defending mining as an “essential” activity, to protect the economic security of their members, and campaigning for mines to be closed to protect members’ health...