Multinational commodities giant BHP has announced an AUD50m ($28.7m) Vital Resources Fund to support regional Australian communities in its areas of production in response to the significant challenges to those communities caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It is intended to support local and regional health networks, funding critical infrastructure, services and workforces, as well as mental health initiatives and essential community services. BHP said that over the longer term, it wants to use the fund to work with governments to increase resources and training available to jobseekers.

The fund follows BHP’s previous commitment to accelerate payments to businesses and reduce payment terms to seven days, down from 30. Last week, BHP also announced it would be seeking to employ 1,500 people on six-month contracts to support its operations during the Covid-19 crisis.

BHP CEO Mike Henry said: “BHP stands with the regional communities we operate in. With those communities facing significant challenges, we are stepping up in establishing the Vital Resources Fund, which will provide support in a range of areas such as health services and resilience-building during this difficult time.”

“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.”

The fund will focus on supporting the communities around BHP’s operations in Australia, including the Bowen Basin in Central Queensland, the Hunter Valley in NSW, Roxby Downs and the Upper Spencer Gulf in South Australia, and the Pilbara and Goldfields regions in Western Australia.