As mines were permitted to return to operation in Mexico and then Liberia in early June, the number of mines on hold due to COVID-19, and ensuing lockdowns or company measures, fell to 94 as of 12 June, having been 3,614 at the end of March. The largest share of these were in North America, followed by Europe and Africa, with just six in Asia-Pacific and Oceania combined.
Whilst restrictions are being lifted, as a result of more widespread testing, large numbers of cases are being discovered at some mines, which is leading to more closures. On Monday 8 June, for example, Polish authorities announced that 12 mines would be closed for three weeks after it was found that hundreds of workers were infected with COVID-19.
In the previous week, the identification of 188 cases of COVID-19 at the Itabira complex in Brazil led to the owner, Vale, being forced to suspend operations there. The company reported that, by 5 June, over 75% of its workforce in Brazil had been tested for COVID-19, along with almost the entire workforce at Itabira.
On 24 May, AngloGold Ashanti announced that 164 workers had tested positive at its Mponeng mine in South Africa, which has now been temporarily closed. The company had conducted 650 tests since detecting the first case.
A month earlier, on 27 April, Peruvian copper mine Antamina, reported 210 positive cases of coronavirus. These had been discovered whilst testing was being undertaken on staff and contractors. Of those with the virus, 87% of cases were asymptomatic and the remainder had only mild symptoms.
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Other major operations still on hold include Voisey’s Bay and Cigar Lake in Canada, Cobre Panama in Panama and Chino in the USA.