COVID-19: An Opportunity for Miners to Build Stronger Relationships with Communities

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, mining companies have found themselves in a position of even greater responsibility for the wellbeing of local communities.

It’s no secret that the problem of poverty and inequality across Africa has deepened even further with the spread of COVID-19. Specific measures put in place to reduce the spread have resulted in the disruption of critical supply chains which ensure the availability of food to the most deprived areas.

In response to the crisis, South Africa’s Exxaro Matla coal mine team has gifted 180 food boxes containing essential supplies (cooking oil, sugar, tea bags, rice, soups, baked beans, tinned fish and maize meal) to families living within the eMalahleni municipality. The company’s other mines have similarly partnered with local authorities to distribute food parcels, blankets and essential items. Exxaro’s spokesperson Mzila Mthenjane stressed the company’s commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of affected communities, especially given the uncertainty and frustration caused by the pandemic.

In a similar sentiment, steel and mining company ArcelorMittal has committed to the provision of critical medical supplies worth $100 000 to the Liberian Ministry of Health. The company is actively working with local government to ensure enhance the capacity of Liberian hospitals and ensure the supply of special hospital equipment.

Over in Ghana, Gold Fields has been instrumental in supporting the authorities during the crisis. In April alone, the company donated over $830 000 to counteract the impacts of COVID-19. The donated funds were distributed to the government of Ghana and to affected employees. The rest of the money was used to distribute critical medical supplies to the community. Newmont, another major miner operating in Ghana, has established a $20m fund to help fight the pandemic. The financial aid focuses on securing the health of employees and local communities, delivering food supplies and ensuring local economic resilience.

Rio Tinto, the world’s second-biggest miner, has issued a financial injection of $25m to help global communities prepare and protect themselves from this and future pandemics. According to CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques, the company is prioritising the health of employees and local communities, whilst still delivering to its customers.

No country or company has remained indifferent to this global crisis. Namibia and Botswana have received support from the global leader in diamond production, De Beers. The company has granted $2.5m to the support each country in the provision of medical supplies, logistical support, food for vulnerable households, water supply and public education.

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