Coronavirus company news summary – Chilean miners unions voice safety concerns – NGOs warn DRC companies may be violating rights – Australian government works to restore lost mining jobs

15 June 2020 (Last Updated June 15th, 2020 09:19)

15 June

Unions of copper miners in Chile have urged for a re-evaluation of the operational continuity plans of the country’s biggest mining companies due to an “alarming” rise in Covid-19 cases among workers. In a statement signed by the union leadership of Codelco, the Mines Federation rejected the “business as usual” discourse advanced by miners as well as the mines minister, Baldo Prokurica. Reuters reported a statement saying: “The increase in cases is alarming and demonstrates that the preventive measures implemented with health and safety protocols aimed at self-care are not working and makes it evident that contrary to what the union believed, security and isolation measures have not immunised workers from contagion.”

The Department of Mining and Geology in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has taken up the issue of non-disposition of fee by mining companies for a number of months including May this year when India’s Covid-19 lockdown was in place. As mine operators faltered in fee payments it has caused a loss of revenue to the state exchequer. Mining secretary Roshan Jacob sent a letter to all district magistrates in which he said that the government has received complaints of mine operators not depositing trimester mining fee. He was quoted by TNN as saying that the availability of mining material is of extreme need in the wake of the pandemic.

A group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including London-based Rights and Accountability in Development and Amnesty International, and US-based Human Rights Watch said that copper and cobalt-mining companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) may be violating the rights of their workers with strict confinement policies that are meant to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the mines in the country have kept their employees on site and continued to operate amid the pandemic. They have also tightly controlled traffic in and out of the mines. The NGOs were quoted by Bloomberg as saying in an emailed letter to 13 mining companies that the conditions of the confinement have not always been sufficient.

The Australian government has announced the primary membership of five industrial relations working groups to find ways to regrow lost mining jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ten members that comprise each group will tackle known problems in the information retrieval (IR) system holding back the economic recovery of the country. They will address issues related to greenfields agreements and project approvals for new enterprises within the mining industry to boost the economy. The working groups will also address other issues such as casual and fixed term employment, award simplification, among others.