Mines have emerged as hot spots for the spread of the COVID-19 disease with an estimated 4,000 mining workers being infected in more than 18 countries. Many worker unions have taken legal recourse to demand the implementation of safety standards and get protective gear.
Verdict has conducted a poll to assess whether mining companies have responded well in safeguarding their workers from COVID-19 disease.
Analysis of the results shows that the response by mining companies during COVID-19 in safeguarding their workers has been adequate.
A majority 54% of the respondents agreed that mining companies have responded well in ensuring the safety of workers, including 32% who strongly agreed.
While 20% of the respondents expressed a neutral opinion on the response, 26% opined that mining companies could have responded better, including 17% who strongly felt the same.
The analysis is based on 356 responses received from readers of Verdict’s Mining Technology site between 01 May and 22 June.
COVID-19 brings back the focus on mining safety
Mining has been deemed as an essential economic activity worldwide causing governments to allow mines to largely remain operational even during the lockdowns imposed in a number of countries. The move, however, exposed thousands of workers to the virus prompting mining unions to demand for safer working conditions.
Companies have implemented hygiene and distancing measures to contain the COVID-19 spread. Anglo American, for example, has reduced its workforce and introduced a health awareness programme to educate workers on protecting themselves from catching the virus.
Rio Tinto has introduced physical distancing, cleaning, and sanitisation measures apart from temperature checks.
Worker unions are, however, requesting mining to be designated as a non-essential activity and thereby avoid compromise on workers’ health. The United Mine Workers of America, for example, introduced staggered start times and safety protocols to protect workers.
COVID-19 has, thus, brought back the focus on worker safety in the mining industry again.