Since mid-March, the response to the pandemic from governments has led to severe disruption to mining operations across a large number of countries. In all 32 countries have passed partial or complete lockdown orders, leading to the temporary suspension of activities at 1,697 mines as at 3 April.

However, as lockdowns have ended and mines are increasingly considered an essential service, as at 27 April, this number had fallen to 729. The exempted mines are, however, operating with reduced numbers of workers to minimise the potential spread of the virus.

At present lockdowns remain in force in countries such as Peru (until 10 May), Mexico (30 May), Bolivia (30 April) and Namibia (4 May). In Quebec, the government extended restrictions to 4 May. However, it is allowing mines to reopen from 15 April as essential services if they comply with strict measures to limit the spread of the virus. Restrictions on mining in India, Argentina, Zimbabwe and South Africa have also been withdrawn, with mining seen as an essential service.

Silver production is currently being severely impacted by lockdown measures. As at 27 April, the equivalent of 65.8% of annual global silver production was on hold. Many silver mining companies, including First Majestic, Hochschild, Hecla Mining, and Endeavour Silver, have withdrawn their production guidance for 2020 in the wake of the outbreak.

In addition, 32% of uranium production, 24.8% of zinc, 19.5% platinum, 14.6% of each nickel and zinc, and 12.7% of annual copper production was on hold as of 27 April.

Progress has also been halted on 23 mines under construction, including the $5.3bn Quellaveco copper mine in Peru, which is one of the world’s biggest copper mines currently under development. The project has an annual copper production capacity of up to 180kt and is expected to commence operations by 2022. In Chile, while a lockdown is not in force, Antofagasta has halted work on its Los Pelambres project and Teck Resources has suspended work on the Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 mine.

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