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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Company response
22 June 2020

Response from Barrick Gold

Author: Barrick Gold

....The Report suggests that Barrick only made Covid-19 donations to various African countries in order to ensure the operations in these countries remained open during this global crisis. This could not be further from the truth...The donations and funds Barrick has provided are to assist the communities, regions/states and countries in which it operates to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Barrick (through the former Randgold Resources) is no stranger to pandemics and our commitment to our host countries during the Ebola crisis in West Africa and the current crisis in the DRC is no different from this Covid-19 pandemic...To date Barrick has provided over $20 million of support to our employees, host communities and host governments, with much of this being in the form of in-kind (goods and services) donations...Notably in North America we have sought to stimulate the local economies within our communities by donating Chamber Cheques to employees that can only be redeemed at community stores and local service providers. We have also initiated loan funds where local businesses can apply for funding to get up and running after their forced closure due to the virus...in the case of Senegal...Barrick has not had an operating site in that country since the sale of the Massawa project well before the Covid-19 outbreak started. However, such is our partnership philosophy and the fact that Senegal hosted us for many years as we conducted exploration activities, that we reached out at this time of need to support them in their Covid-19 efforts...

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Company response
22 June 2020

Response from Dalradian

Author: Dalradian

..In line with the Northern Ireland Executive’s response to COVID-19, Dalradian, whose only project is an exploration site in Co. Tyrone, has closed its offices and greatly reduced its activities. The regulations issued by Government (the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations (NI) 2020) permit fieldwork, such as essential environmental monitoring, to continue...Health and safety assessments are completed in advance addressing issues such as social distancing and the wearing of PPE. Access permissions are also sought and obtained from the relevant landowners...We were notified by the Northern Ireland Health & Safety Executive and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) that this environmental monitoring had prompted a complaint. We clarified the nature of the work and no action is being taken by either body. We have also made a complaint to the PSNI about staff being harassed while completing this fieldwork...As part of the planning application, detailed Health Impact and Environmental Impact Assessments have been completed. The proposals are being independently assessed by the relevant authorities and in its response Northern Ireland’s Public Health Authority has made no objection to the project on public health grounds, including in relation to radon...

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Company response
22 June 2020

Response from Hudbay

Author: Hudbay Minerals

...we have not yet had any confirmed COVID-19 cases among workers at our operations. To understand our situation and the information that is being circulated, it is important to distinguish between individuals who fail an initial screening, versus those individuals who have subsequently been confirmed to have COVID-19 as a result of a molecular test...we have been administering "quick tests" (antibody tests) to incoming and outbound workers at Constancia, supervised by the health authorities. Although molecular tests are more accurate their availability is limited, and the quick tests allow us to "triage" potential cases...There has been some misinformation in the media relating to an alleged 21 workers that tested positive in May, but the important distinction is that all 21 instances involved reactive results from quick tests. Upon further review by the Arequipa health authorities, all 21 cases were subsequently determined to be negative for COVID-19...In addition to testing incoming and outbound workers, we have taken the following steps: implemented procedures for quarantining incoming workers in hotels in Arequipa and Cusco before they travel to site; conducted additional screening protocols; introduced extensive sanitary protocols in the event there is a positive case; enforced workplace physical distancing protocols, and made adjustments to work rotation schedules...

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Company response
22 June 2020

Response from Solaris Resources

Author: Solaris Resources

...Solaris has suspended its exploration activities for over three months to date. The only contact made with the Shuar communities of Warints and Yawi aimed to provide much-needed humanitarian aid support...The representatives of the Shuar communities of Warints and Yawi travelled to Toronto representing their communities under the legitimate delegation of authority by their community general assemblies...The "Strategic Alliance of the Warintza Project" between the Shuar communities of Warints and Yawi and Solaris Resources was approved by the community general assembly...Medical testing and analyses carried out by the Ministry of Health in Ecuador ruled out the presence of COVID-19 symptoms following the return of community representatives to Ecuador...In what follows, Solaris Resources and the Shuar communities of Warints and Yawi provide you with a chronology of events leading to the manipulation of information for ill-conceived purposes in an attempt to defame what is referred to in the Ecuadorian mining industry as the "Warintza Model"; a model built on the principles of free will, certainty, transparency, education and partnership between the Shuar communities of Warints and Yawi and Solaris Resources...

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Company response
22 June 2020

Response from Yamana Gold

Author: Yamana Gold

...Yamana's activities are consistent with the Federal Government adding mining to the list of essential activities in early April, and the company has not taken any advantage of the pandemic to advance the Suyai project. Our press release issued April 28, 2020, 'Yamana Gold Announces the Grant of an Option with Joint Venture Rights in Respect of its Suyai Property in Chubut Province Argentina' provides an open and transparent description of a transaction granting an option for joint venture rights to the Suyai project...we clearly point out the challenges related to this project: "Currently, there is a moratorium on mining in the province of Chubut, which would have to be lifted in order for the project to receive approval to proceed. There can be no assurance that this will occur although one of the objectives of this arrangement leading to the joint venture is for a re-engagement with the province and local community...any attempt at re-engagement during the current social distancing and travel restrictions in place in Argentina is a challenge and presents no evident advantages...

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Company response
17 June 2020

Response from Polyus

Author: Polyus Gold

...Employees that tested positive for COVID-19 over the course of the broad-based testing campaign launched by the Company in the first half of April have received necessary support and assistance...The remote nature of our operations naturally presents additional challenges, especially when it comes to quickly providing spare quarantine facilities for a significant number of employees in an emergency of unprecedented scale. From the initial stages of the outbreak of the virus at Olimpiada, our focus was on rapidly reconfiguring several properties for quarantine purposes to ensure the possibility to accommodate employees who had tested positive but were asymptomatic...Polyus was assisted by the Russian Ministry of Defence in setting up temporary facilities...No military personnel was intended to "prevent riots of concerned and affected workers"...The temporary quarantine accommodation at Olimpiada is no longer in use as the Company has now completed a full refurbishment of its properties that now offer extensive quarantining facilities...As of today, 80% of our employees at Olimpiada who had earlier been tested positive for COVID-19, have recovered...

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Company response
15 June 2020

Response from Teck Resources

Author: Teck Resources

...We worked closely with unions and authorities to quickly implement extensive and consistent measures across our sites to prevent transmission of COVID-19...These include enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols; screening of contractors and visitors; requiring anyone showing symptoms or who has been in close contact with someone with symptoms to stay home from work; increased physical distancing practices at site such as reducing the number of on-site staff; cutting the number of passengers on buses by at least 50%; staggered start times, and separating groups of employees; promoting personal preventative measures such as frequent handwashing; and ensuring proper use of PPE including masks...there have been no cases of COVID-19 at Teck’s mines in Canada, the U.S., or our Carmen de Andacollo mine in Chile. Teck announced on March 18 the temporary suspension of construction activities at our Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 project in Chile for worker safety. As cases of COVID-19 have increased across Chile we have had approximately 35 positive cases associated with our QB site in Chile, with the majority asymptomatic...The Antamina mine in Peru, in which Teck has a 22.5% non-operating minority interest, demobilized in mid-April and a rigorous testing and quarantine program was put in place to ensure employee and community health was protected...The letter from Teck referenced in the MiningWatch report was very clearly unrelated to the Antamina mine. It was sent in direct response to a Globe and Mail article that focused on Teck’s steelmaking coal operations in Canada...

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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...

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Article
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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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