Some of the world's biggest mining operators are tackling the coronavirus challenge in the communities in which they operate by offering financial and logistical support

coronavirus covid-19

The spread of coronavirus has impacted communities and businesses around the world

As the coronavirus continues its unrelenting impact around the world, mining companies have been making financial and logistical contributions to efforts to tackle the pandemic.

These extractive firms, which so often occupy a stewardship role for the communities in which they operate — providing jobs and economic growth in return for the removal of natural resources — have been hard hit by both the economic slowdown and public health restrictions as a consequence of the crisis.

Mining operations around the world have had to be scaled down or halted as communities go into lockdown and social-distancing measures to limit the spread of the virus prevent close-quarters working practices.


Support for mining communities against the impact of coronavirus is ‘critically important’

Tom Butler, CEO of the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM), a trade body representing many of the world’s biggest mining firms, recently said: “Our members are facing a variety of challenges, depending on the varying pace of the epidemic in different countries, and the responses of governments around the world.

“Many mines play a vital role in supporting their local communities, which is critically important during this time of global crisis.

“Long term, our industry will have to work together to help support the recovery from the shock that Covid-19 is inflicting on the global economy and local communities.”

In the context of all this, some of the world’s biggest miners have started using their considerable resources to boost the global mission to stem the tide of Covid-19, pledging millions of dollars to relief efforts and leveraging their supply chains to provide communities with the services and equipment that will help them withstand the health crisis.


BHP supporting mining communities in Australia and Chile

For its part, Anglo-Australian miner BHP has announced plans to establish a 50 million Australian dollar fund to support communities in the regions of Australia where it operates, with investment to be directed into critical health services and resilience building.

BHP CEO Mike Henry said: “We know Covid-19 will require a significant collective response from governments, businesses, communities and individuals across Australia. We are determined to play our part as we work through this challenge together.”

coronavirus impact in mining
BHP has a large iron ore business in Western Australia (Credit: BHP)

In Chile, where BHP operates two vast copper mining assets – Escondida and Pampa Norte – the company has committed a further $8m to strengthen the country’s public health network, in collaboration with the medical faculty of Universidad Católica.

The investment strategy will concentrate primarily on a virus testing programme, community outreach and developing additional laboratory capacity to speed up the detection process.


Rio Tinto contributes $60m to Covid-19 relief efforts

Rio Tinto is the latest to announce a financial stimulus package to support “global grassroots community Covid-19 preparedness and recovery”, pledging $25m to the cause and taking its overall contribution to $60m.

Chief executive of the Anglo-Australian miner Jean-Sébastien Jacques said: “Covid-19 is a human tragedy and we all have to play our part as the pandemic spreads. Our first priority remains the health and safety of all of our employees and communities.

“We are not at all complacent. Safety and health comes first as we keep delivering for our customers, our host governments and communities.”

The cash injection to the pandemic relief effort includes the supply of masks and protective equipment to support emergency and health professionals, as well as the provision of ventilators and temporary medical units to local communities.


Vale leverages Asian supply chain network to source testing kits for Brazilian government

Brazil’s largest miner Vale has also initiated a range of support measures for businesses and communities in its domestic market.

Earlier this month, it confirmed the purchase of five million coronavirus rapid testing kits from China, which will be delivered to the Brazilian government in batches throughout the first few weeks of April.

coronavirus impact in mining
Vale has purchased five million Covid-19 testing kits from China (Credit: Vale)

Alongside the testing kits, Vale has also sourced personal protective equipment for medical workers – including goggles, gloves and masks.

Company CEO Eduardo Bartolomeo said: “Vale offers this humanitarian help to Brazilian society in a moment which the country unites for the health and safety of people. We are making use of our logistics network in Asia to bring equipment to Brazil that may make a difference in the lives of people.”

In addition to this medical equipment support, the miner has launched a series of financial stimulus measures it says will inject 160 million Brazilian dollars into its home economy.

These include advancing payments to more than 1,000 small and medium-sized companies in its supply chain for services already performed or materials delivered.