4 Inspiring Ways the Mining Industry has Responded to COVID-19
This was originally published by Davey Bickford Enaex.
As the history of COVID-19 is written, the effect it has on different industries will be an area of focus. Some businesses (e.g. the gig economy) were temporarily paralysed by lockdown measures. Others repositioned their internal resources to be of critical use – gin distilleries making hand sanitiser, for example.
Mining companies across the globe suspended operations due to government mandates, market forces, and efforts to keep employees safe. Many sites entered “care and maintenance” phases, with the majority of employees staying home. Naturally, construction was halted on upcoming projects. Exploration tapered off. Specific examples are detailed in this Mining.com article from 26 March; and here is a list of mines in Western Australia that have suspended operations to various degrees.
The mining industry, although it may not be as essential as grocery or digital streaming in a crisis, is essential to the near-future, especially in the global effort toward cleaner energy systems. It remains to be seen how the pandemic will affect mining supply-and-demand chains, but for now, the industry’s game plan seems more or less the same as before: Trim waste, be more efficient, collect and use data on mining sites, improve ecology and social license, and be prepared for market changes.
In the midst of these great challenges, it’s worth taking a look at a few inspiring examples of leadership from mining companies:
- On 20 April, Wheaton Precious Metals announced a US$5m COVID-19 support fund to help the communities in which it operates. The Vancouver-based firm pledged most of the fund to help people “directly influenced by the mines on which we have precious metal streaming agreements.” The remainder, according to the company, will be allocated to local programs for healthcare, nutrition, and social economic impact near its offices in Vancouver and Grand Cayman. Not every company can feasibly lay out millions in COVID relief; but for those who can, this is a good example of a proactive social license, and building a reputation as a genuine team player in the community.
- Lions Bay Mining, another company based in Vancouver, has taken a different tack. A minerals exploration company, Lions Bay abruptly switched gears and announced its intention to acquire a biopharmaceutical firm (BioVaxys LLC) that develops vaccines and immunotherapeutic treatments. There has been a lot of discussion around “crossover” between mining and other industries – this is a recent example.
- The Board of Directors at Anglo American donated 30% of their salaries for a three-month interval, directing those resources to various COVID relief funds. According to Mining.com, the company has donated $25m to corona relief efforts, and has offered to match contributions made by its employees.
Most of the difficult and inspiring stories have taken place away from the headlines. In late April, Australian Resources and Energy Group (AMMA) surveyed 100+ mining companies and found that 70% intended to change, or had already changed, operational rosters. It’s important to recognise the hardship many mining professionals have endured, especially those who have lost a job.
An industry of leaders
Taken as a whole, the global mining industry has its plate full. It was already in the process of revolutionising itself for a sustainable age – not only becoming a more sustainable industry, but mining the metals we need to drive energy systems around the globe.
For many mining and METS companies, the calculus may have been scrambled somewhat by the pandemic. It’s not quite as simple as switching from gin to sanitiser – but we can take heart knowing our industry is innovative, resilient, and has shown some bright flashes of leadership in a difficult year.