Extractive companies' response to the Covid-19 pandemic

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Author: Global Newswire; OCMAL

“Caen las ventas y la producción de Orocobre” – 22 de abril de 2020

…La producción de carbonato de litio en la instalación para el trimestre de marzo fue de 2.732 toneladas en comparación con las 3.075 toneladas del año anterior, ya que Orocobre perdió un total de 21 días de producción debido a paradas por mantenimiento y la pandemia de coronavirus…La producción en Olaroz se reinició el 10 de abril, luego de una declaración especial del gobierno argentino declarando el proyecto como “esencial”…Orocobre también ha confirmado que espera que la finalización de la segunda etapa de Olaroz se retrase debido a las interrupciones de Covid-19. La segunda etapa del proyecto está completa en un 35% luego de un gasto de USD 130 millones. [Se refiere a Advantage Lithium]

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Author: El Mercurio de Calama; OCMAL

“Mineras reducen en 7.500 personas sus dotaciones en la Región de Antofagasta por emergencia del Covid-19” – 29 de abril de 2020

Los planes de contingencia contra la propagación del Covid-19 que ha implementado Codelco y las cuatro divisiones que integran su distrito norte, sumado a la decisión de Minera El Abra de cerrar sus operaciones desde este lunes como parte del nuevo plan minero de Freeport-McMoRan, han reducido las dotaciones mineras en la zona en cerca de 7.500 personas…Entre los esfuerzos de Codelco se considera la suspensión de las obras remanentes del proyecto Mina Chuquicamata subterránea, informada el miércoles 25 de marzo, en práctica desde el 3 de abril y por espacio de 15 días que ya fueron extendidos…Construcción que hoy mantiene sólo personal acotado, para resguardar la seguridad de las instalaciones y los equipos. Esta medida, según detalló la cuprífera, significó la salida de al menos 2.500 contratistas de la división.

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Author: La Tercera (Chile)

“Minera El Abra anuncia despidos y reducción de procesamiento de mineral ante caída en el precio del cobre por coronavirus” – 27 de abril de 2020

Minera El Abra, filial de la estadounidense Freeport-McMoRan, informó este lunes que modificará a partir de esta semana su plan minero para reducir en 40% el procesamiento de mineral chancado, pasando de las actuales 110 mil toneladas a 65 mil toneladas diarias.

“Esta disminución en el procesamiento de mineral se fundamenta principalmente en una progresiva caída en el precio del cobre, entre otros factores, producto de la pandemia de Covid-19, lo que deja a El Abra en una situación operacional compleja”, señaló la minera.

Asimismo indicó que “lamentablemente, esta reducción de producción requerirá realizar un plan de desvinculación de unos 275 trabajadores, de los cuales 187 son de plazo indefinido y 88 de plazo fijo”.

Los trabajadores de plazo indefinido recibirán un paquete de beneficios especiales superior a lo que corresponde legalmente, aseveró la minera.

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29 April 2020

So. Africa: Minerals council says it has a ’10 point plan’ for members to resume operations safely

Author: Biz News (South Africa)

‘Minerals Council outlines industry readiness’ 28 April 2020

While it is too early to assess accurately the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the state of the industry, concerns have been raised by some parties regarding the care that mining companies have taken, and will take, as production is phased up in the sector. The industry is extremely conscious of the responsibilities it faces in these unprecedented circumstances. No doubt, as the economy more broadly begins its own opening up process with the switch on 1 May to Level 4, employers in many sectors face similar responsibilities, the Minerals Council South Africa said in a statement.

…By early March, two weeks before the declaration of the state of disaster and before the first diagnosis in South Africa, member companies were operating in terms of a Minerals Council 10-point action plan. This involved, in brief, employee education, health worker readiness, use of masks, sanitisers and temperature monitors, proactive influenza vaccinations, dealing with immuno-compromised employees, management of suspected cases or contacts of cases, provision for isolation of employees where required, travel advice, industry reporting, communication and monitoring.

…From the earliest days of the lockdown, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) inspections have been taking place at mine and processing plants with the full co-operation of the mining companies. The SOP itself has been updated at times as knowledge of the virus has advanced, and this will continue based on advice from all relevant experts. The SOP deals with procedures to be followed before the return of employees; infection prevention, screening and referrals after their return; isolation areas; practices such as employee training, PPE use, hygiene precautions and physical distancing; and, finally, reporting.

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29 April 2020

So. Africa: Union demands detailed, binding' standards to ensure safety of miners

Author: Mining Review Africa

‘Mining communities head to court for protection from COVID-19’ 29 April 2020

The Labour Court will hear an urgent application brought by mining union AMCU today that calls for detailed regulations to be put in place to ensure mine workers will be properly protected from the novel coronavirus. Community network MACUA, represented by CALS, is applying to intervene in the matter as a friend of the court to highlight the vulnerability of mining-affected communities during this pandemic and ensure they have a say in the regulations impacting them. 

Over a month ago, regulations were put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in our country by enforcing a strict lockdown – including in the mining industry, which was restricted to only essential operations. Concerned, however, about the lack of clear measures to protect mine workers and affected communities, community networks and other civil society groups wrote an open letter to the President and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy. The Minister responded positively by issuing updated regulations ordering that a screening and testing programme must be put in place for workers and that mining companies must make arrangements to transport their employees to work, as well as quarantine those who test positive for the virus.

…The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has, therefore, launched an urgent application in the Labour Court calling for the Minister to ensure that mineworkers are properly protected in line with the Mine Health and Safety Act. One of South Africa’s largest community networks is applying to intervene in the matter as a friend of the court. Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), intends to argue that these protections should be extended to affected communities and be developed in consultation with them

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29 April 2020

Zimbabwe: Mine workers live in fear of contracting the coronavirus

Author: Kudzanai Gerede, 263 Chat (Zimbabwe)

‘Mine Workers Fret Over COVID-19 Risk At Work Place’ 21 April 2020

Mine workers are at high risk of contracting the Covid-19 as most mines are yet to adhere to stipulated guidelines in the fight against the spread of the virus, a worker union has said. President Emerson Mnangagwa on Sunday reprieved the mining industry from lockdown and emphasized on strict adherence to safety rules. However, the Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Workers Union (ZDAWU) claims that mine employers have not put in place safety measures for their employees.

…"For a mine to be exempted ,they were required to apply through the Chamber of Mines or Zimbabwe Miners Federation making a commitment that they will observe the lockdown regulations that were set like decongesting the work place ,observance of respiratory hygiene, personal hygiene, social distancing at work as well as in transit to and from work," "We noted that the conditions set to operate were not fully observed," ZDAWU said in a statement. Some mines were earlier granted permission to operate during the initial phase of the lockdown and the Union says it noted the workers concerns and asked authorities to intervene buy coming to observe the situation at mines but their request was never granted.

…This publication could not be able to fact check the situation on the ground at various mines but mining industry sources close to 263Chat said the situation was not the same across the industry with some mines fully protecting their employees but however agreed that some mines were facing serious protective equipment challenges. Some mines are sending home employees on unpaid leave in violation of the provisions of the Labour Act, a development which will antagonise industrial relations and subsequently lead to disruptions in productivity on the mines, observers warn.

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29 April 2020

Zimbabwe: Rights groups fear Covid-19 may aid in the hiding of human rights abuses

Author: New Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)

‘COVID-19 has potential to mask rampant rights abuses in mining communities’ 29 April 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has potential to mask human rights abuses and further worsen poverty among mining communities in parts of Manicaland. These are sentiments expressed recently by rights groups, Centre for Research and Development (CRD) and Amalgamated Chiadzwa Development Trust (ACDT). “As the world is trying to tame Covid 19, we have discovered that there are 12 non-disclosure agreements (NDA) between the state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) and new partners in Marange,” said CRD director James Mupfumi. He said other companies that are reported to have signed the NDA with ZCDC are community owned.

“While that might be good that some companies that have signed non-disclosure agreements with ZCDC are community owned, the process which was done lacks transparency and accountability. “There is no participation by communities and information is not on public domain. The information is not legal as it is supposed to come out on public,” said Mupfumi. As human and environmental rights defenders, Mupfumi said they feared ZCDC was going back to its old ways of doing business which camouflaged massive corruption in the mining of diamond. “With this pandemic, it may go on while the world and society focus on the pandemic but issues on the ground is that ZCDC now has partnership with 12 entities.

…“Does ZCDC have the capacity to manage 12 companies? It’s most likely these companies will operate independently. “ZCDC will look for licences for these companies’ special grants. “It will be difficult for these companies to do their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as expected by the law. “They will hide behind ZCDC, for example Anjin had no EIA but mining independently using expired document.” ACDT spokesperson Jeyi Kasakara said their fear as communities was the 2009 scenario where there were multiple players in Marange who were not accountable but politically connected.

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Author: Alexandre Outeda Jorge, Ariane Gomes dos Santos e Derick Mensinger Rocumback, Migalhas (Brasil)

“Riscos ocupacionais e ambientais nas atividades minerárias em meio à pandemia da COVID-19.”, 23 de Abril de 2020

Várias empresas de mineração do país têm sido alvo de questionamentos do MPF, MPE e/ou MPT, sob diferentes ângulos e nos limites de suas atribuições, acerca da segurança ocupacional e ambiental em atividades minerárias. A controvérsia tem muita aplicação prática porque, a nosso ver corretamente, a atividade de mineração foi inserida no rol de atividades essenciais pela Portaria nº 135/GM...É inquestionável a essencialidade da atividade,... [m]as naturalmente a essencialidade da atividade minerária não a dispensa de cuidados e controles cuja aplicação nos tempos atuais tornam ainda mais prementes...[O] foco do MPT e de sindicatos tem sido assegurar (i) os meios de prevenção para evitar propagação do novo coronavírus ... a trabalhadores e (ii) a segurança de barragens. São absolutamente legítimas a preocupação e a cautela, que simultaneamente porém devem guardar embasamento técnico e amoldar-se a cada situação individual...Em 1.4.2020, o Sindicato Metabase e o Sindicato Metabase Mariana, com o apoio de 65 entidades e centrais sindicais, partidos políticos, representações estudantis, de cientistas, professores e dos movimentos sociais, divulgaram a nota conjunta “Paralisar a Mineração por Nossas Vidas”... 

 

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Author: Corporación Privada para el Desarrollo, Aysén, 25 ONG y legisladores

“Urge suspensión total de plazos del Sistema de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental” – 22 de abril de 2020

Ante la continuidad de la operación del Sistema de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental durante la actual crisis sanitaria, los abajo firmantes declaramos lo siguiente: • Desde que se iniciara la pandemia del Covid-19, se han alzado diversas voces ciudadanas emplazando al Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y al Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental (SEA) a suspender los plazos de tramitación de los proyectos de inversión. Esto, debido a la inequidad que se produce en tanto comunidades y afectados no están en igualdad de condiciones con el sector privado para participar en el Sistema de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental...• La respuesta del director del SEA ha sido que no se ha suspendido el trámite de los proyectos porque tanto las empresas como la ciudadanía pueden seguir su tramitación por vía electrónica. Lo anterior produce un tremendo desbalance, debido a que no todos y todas tienen acceso e información para ejercer virtualmente sus derechos...• Más aún, hoy hemos sido testigos de cómo la Comisión de Evaluación Ambiental de Valparaíso voto a favor de un proyecto de inversión que se emplaza en la comuna de Putaendo, correspondiente a sondajes de la Compañía Minera Vizcachitas Holding, propiedad de la canadiense Los Andes Copper. Dicha aprobación, genera una tremenda angustia entre la población que se opone a la iniciativa, la que con justa razón solicita que se hagan gestiones que les permitan participar del proceso. Peor aún, al no obtener respuesta de las autoridades, no tienen otra alternativa que manifestarse en la defensa de sus territorios, exponiéndose al contagio en plena crisis sanitaria...

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Author: Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina

“Arequipa: Conflicto minero en Caylloma y el COVID-19” – 27 de abril de 2020

… Las autoridades y un grupo de pobladores del distrito de Caylloma solicitaron que la empresa minera Bateas [parte de Fortuna Silver] deje de operar. La razón, que hay dos trabajadores supuestamente infectados con COVID-19 en los campamentos de esta compañía… Sin embargo, el gerente general de la empresa, César Velasco, desmintió esa versión. Aclaró que se detectaron 21 casos positivos con pruebas rápidas, pero estos servidores no entraron a la operación minera y están cuarentena… La denuncia sobre los supuestos contagios la hicieron los miembros del Frente de Defensa del Distrito de Caylloma y el alcalde Leonardo Huaccha. Este último indicó que el problema para ellos es que la mina siga operando a pesar del estado de emergencia por el COVID-19. Por eso los manifestantes realizaron una protesta, tomaron la carretera de acceso, hubo un altercado con trabajadores de la compañía y efectivos policiales. La gerenta de relaciones comunitarias fue amedrentada con palos y piedras. Las protestas continuaron ayer. Estas se agravaron en la tarde, los protestantes tomaron el municipio y echaron a los trabajadores. La policía los retiró por la fuerza y detuvo a tres personas. Serían denunciadas por violar el estado de emergencia… ¿Puede o no operar la mina en estado de emergencia? Velasco sostiene que ellos se amparan en los decretos 046 y 51. Estos garantizan operaciones mínimas en actividades críticas con el fin de no verse obligados a cerrar. De los 600 obreros de la operación, solo trabajan 120…

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