Report argues mining industry is profiting from COVID-19 while putting workers, communities & defenders at risk; including co responses

A report published by a coalition of civil society organisations (Earthworks, Institute for Policy Studies - Global Economy Program, London Mining Network, MiningWatch Canada, Terra Justa, War on Want, and Yes to Life No to Mining) analyses through a series of case studies key trends in the mining sector's response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The report finds that:

  • Mining companies are ignoring the real threats of the pandemic and continuing to operate
  • Governments around the world are taking extraordinary measures to shut down legitimate protests and promote the mining sector
  • Mining companies are using the pandemic as an opportunity to hide themselves as public-minded actors despite poor human rights and environmental track record
  • Mining companies and governments are using the crisis to secure regulatory change that favours the industry at the expense of people and planet

The report was followed with a statement signed by over 300 organisations condemning the mining industry's behaviour during the pandemic.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited companies mentioned in the report to respond.

This story includes responses from:

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Article
31 March 2020

Anglo American seeking to mine on indigenous lands in Brazil’s Amazon

Author: Maurício Angelo, translated by Matt Rinaldi, Mongabay

Mining giant Anglo American has plans to dig for copper, gold, nickel and manganese on indigenous lands in the Brazilian Amazon, records obtained by Mongabay show. Anglo American...has submitted applications alongside two of its Brazilian subsidiaries, Itamaracá and Tanagra, according to the records...The three companies submitted a combined 296 applications since the 1990s for research and availability on indigenous reserves...The most recent applications filed by Anglo American are for copper exploration inside the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Reserve, home to the Munduruku people, in the state of Pará. It submitted five applications from 2017 to 2019, indicating it was hopeful of the kind of deregulation now being proposed by the Bolsonaro administration...In a note, Anglo American said only that it has “filed applications for mineral research in the Amazon based on available geological data. The responsible authorities will decide whether or not to grant us the authorization to conduct mineral research. Anglo American only conducts mineral research in properly authorized areas.” It did not say whether its shareholders around the world were aware of its applications to mine in the Amazon, including on indigenous lands...The records seen by Mongabay show that, in 2015, Anglo American and its subsidiaries Tanagra and Itamaracá withdrew 111 applications to explore for gold, nickel and copper on various indigenous lands...Anglo American confirmed to Mongabay its withdrawal of the applications in question, but did not confirm whether it intends to once again bid for the same areas...

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Author: Minería Enlinea

Minera Panamá, una subsidiaria de First Quantum Minerals (TSX: FM) de Canadá, anunció que está trabajando para llevar a casa a unas 800 personas que se encuentran actualmente en cuarentena preventiva en su operación Cobre Panamá.

En un comunicado de prensa, la minera explicó que 2.000 personas se quedaron atrapados en el complejo minero cuando entró en el bloqueo tras la detección de covid 19-infecciones entre los contratistas y la muerte de un trabajador .

Unos 700 trabajadores ya han sido enviados a casa y otros 500 permanecen en cuarentena en hoteles cercanos.

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Article
8 May 2020

Impala aims for late May production restart at Lac des Iles Mine

Author: Northern Ontario Business

The operators of a northwestern Ontario palladium mine, that experienced a worker death from COVID-19, have tentative plans to come out of lockdown and resume operations by month's end. Impala Canada said it's taking a phased approach towards returning to full production at the remote Lac des Iles Mine, 90 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, as the company begins a recall of workers...The company and local health authorities had to perform extensive contact tracing, and even isolate some workers in a Thunder Bay hotel, after an outbreak of the virus in early April that eventually topped 25 positive cases..."Our co-workers feel well, have recovered, and are no longer in isolation," according to an emailed reply from an Impala Canada spokesperson. One employee died in late April from COVID-19 complications due to underlying health conditions, the company said...The company stressed in an email that each phase will only be executed "when we are confident it is safe to do so," through consultation with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit and a number of provincial and federal regulators and health agencies...

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Article
10 May 2020

Fekola operations continue amid COVID-19 infections

Author: Mining Journal

Vancouver-based B2Gold says its proactive testing and response plan has identified 10 employees with the COVID-19 virus at its Fekola mine in Mali, however, operations continue unhindered by the pandemic...The company had implemented a tight site lockdown from April 19 onwards, accommodating employees from nearby villages in temporary accommodations on site to create an "island setting" with minimal interaction with local communities. All employees entering the Fekola project are now required to quarantine for a minimum of twelve days prior to entering the general site population. Despite these measures, one new positive COVID-19 case was identified on May 2...

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Company response
11 May 2020

OceanaGold responded

We take these allegations seriously and stand by our commitment to responsible mining. Regardless of others’ views, we have been committed to ongoing engagement on an effective and genuine basis with all stakeholders of our Didipio Mine. This includes a commitment to respect the human rights of all stakeholders, including those voicing concerns.  We also take seriously our commitment to engage with all stakeholders and recently provided a substantive response to the OHCHR following a statement about the emergency back-up fuel delivery... We operate the Didipio Mine under a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA)... In June 2019, the FTAA became renewable for a second 25-year term..  After their initial review, the Office of the President requested further clarification on how the company will accommodate the Indigenous People’s Rights Act... to which the Company has agreed... In June 2019... the MGB issued a formal letter confirming OceanaGold’s right to continue to operate while the renewal is finalised. The FTAA renewal is currently with the Office of the President... On April 10... [b]efore the fuel trucks arrived in Didipio, the Chief of Police... had a dialogue with the Didipio Barangay Captain who agreed to the delivery on the grounds it had been approved by the Governor...and Mayor... OceanaGold did not participate in the fuel delivery, but we did engage with the PNP beforehand and shared our common interest for a peaceable delivery given the blockade... 

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Company response
15 May 2020

Pan American Silver response

Author: Pan American Silver

...In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Guatemala issued a State of Calamity decree on March 5, 2020, which has been extended to June 5, 2020. The decree closed the country’s international borders and imposed restriction of movement within the country. Similarly, other governments in Pan American’s operating jurisdictions have imposed national quarantines and other measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These restrictions have led to significant disruptions to food and medical supplies, causing hardship across the country and in many communities near the Escobal Project. Pan American has received many requests for support, and we are responding with donations of food, sanitary and medical supplies for all our local communities, including those within Guatemala. This humanitarian aid is provided without condition, including no intention to use acceptance of this aid as an indication of community support for the Escobal mine...

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Article
24 May 2020

Statement by AngloGold Ashanti

Author: AngloGold Ashanti

"AngloGold Ashanti Statement Provides Update on Positive Cases at Mponeng Mine", 24 May 2020.

AngloGold Ashanti confirms that, following the detection of its first positive COVID-19 case at its Mponeng Mine last week, a comprehensive screening, contact tracing and testing programme has revealed several cases at the site in Merafong, in Gauteng Province...Importantly, of the positive cases, the vast majority are asymptomatic. All positive cases will be isolated in line with national health protocols, with on-site facilities available for those who may need them...As a precautionary step, and after discussions with the regulator, operations at Mponeng Mine –which were running at 50% capacity –have been temporarily halted on a voluntary basis, to complete contact tracing and to again deep clean and sanitize the workplace and key infrastructure...

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Author: Observatório da Mineração

“Infecção por Covid-19 explode entre trabalhadores da Vale no Pará e cidade entra em colapso”, 27 de maio de 2020

 Os números oficiais falam em 1603 casos confirmados e 61 mortes por Covid-19 em Parauapebas (PA) até o momento. Mas a cidade que se formou e cresceu em função da mineradora Vale enfrenta um colapso de saúde que é ainda pior do que os números mostram…fontes diversas acusam a Vale de omitir resultados de exames para que não constem no sistema municipal de saúde. A mineradora e a prefeitura negam. A OAB e o Ministério Público Federal e Estadual entraram com ações para averiguar a situação da cidade frente a pandemia. As evidências apontam que centenas de funcionários da empresa estariam com Covid-19 no Complexo Carajás...trabalhadores entrevistados contam a dificuldade em conseguir fazer o exame para a Covid-19, que só é liberado – e com muita briga – após 10 dias que a pessoa começa a sentir os sintomas. É o caso de Evaldo Fidelis, 35 anos, operador de equipamentos da Vale na mina de Carajás...Em 25 de abril Evaldo foi trabalhar normalmente...teste de temperatura...não acusou nenhuma alteração...sua saúde [foi]piorando progressivamente...procurou o...hospital da Vale...o médico que o atendeu reconheceu que o seu quadro indicava Covid, mas disse que não poderia fazer o exame porque o protocolo do hospital só permitia o exame após 10 dias de sintomas...Completados os 10 dias, Evaldo retornou ao [hospital]que finalmente comprovou que Evaldo estava mesmo com a Covid-19…Enquanto o trabalhador “está se lascando para sobreviver”, ele diz, “a Vale tá ganhando bilhões na pandemia”. De fato, o minério de ferro já subiu mais de 25% no ano, ultrapassando os 100 dólares por tonelada… a Vale disse à reportagem que “mantém diálogo com os órgãos competentes e comunica as autoridades de saúde sobre casos suspeitos e/ou confirmados...reforça ainda que segue os protocolos de saúde e segurança estabelecidos pelas autoridades e agências de cada um dos países em que opera”…

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Company response
1 June 2020

Torex Gold response

Author: Torex Gold Resources

...Our protection of human rights is paramount, and we invite  you to visit our site to see firsthand the values that we hold, and how we apply those values in our approach to relationships with our employees, stakeholders and neighbouring communities.  We are completely transparent in this regard and you are welcome to visit anytime. Our objective is to be a benchmark in the global mining industry when it comes to human rights issues.

With respect to the four individual cases about which you are inquiring, while these individuals have, at some point, had employment relationships with Torex, it would be inaccurate and irresponsible to associate their deaths with human rights violations by the Company. The four certainly died violently; and unfortunately, they are not the only ones that have recently died violently in this region of Guerrero. We presume that these four have been selected because they had a past employment relationship with Torex or with a contractor that worked on our site; however, we can assure you that these were criminal matters that were quite outside of our control...

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Report
2 June 2020

Voices from the Ground: How the Global Mining Industry is Profiting from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Author: Earthworks, Institute for Policy Studies - Global Economy Program, London Mining Network, MiningWatch Canada, Terra Justa, War on Want, and Yes to Life No to Mining

This report provides in-depth cases to exemplify the four trends highlighted in the international open letter “Global Solidarity with Communities, Indigenous Peoples and Workers at risk from Mining Pandemic Profiteers”. These trends pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of communities and organizations that have been struggling to defend public health and their environments against the destruction and devastation of mining extractivism for decades, as well as to the safety of workers in the mining sector.

The key trends:

  • Mining companies are ignoring the real threats of the pandemic and continuing to operate, using any means available
  • Governments around the world are taking extraordinary measures to shut down legitimate protests and promote the mining sector
  • Mining companies are using the pandemic as an opportunity to hide their dirty track records and present themselves as public-minded saviours
  • Mining companies and governments are using the crisis to secure regulatory change that favours the industry at the expense of people and planet...

Read the full post here