Gold companies support governments' and communities' fight against COVID-19

The global spread of COVID-19 has affected all of us in one way or another and many businesses and industries are having to adapt, including the gold mining industry.

The World Gold Council is committed to working with our Members - and other industry associations, including the International Council of Mining and Metals - to respond to COVID-19 and to support the employees and communities associated with gold and gold mining.

Protecting the health and wellbeing of employees, local communities and their families is paramount to our Members. Operating safely is deeply rooted in the culture of responsible gold miners. It is for this reason that in our Responsible Gold Mining Principles, we state that responsible miners will protect and promote the safety and occupational health of their workforce above all other priorities.

The World Gold Council recognises and is proud of the role that our members play as responsible gold mining companies in supporting economic and social development in communities and countries across the world.

In many situations, mines play a central role in the provision of livelihoods, infrastructure and public services. The Covid 19 pandemic has required them to protect the wellbeing of employees, contractors and local communities.

Gold mining companies have implemented a raft of interventions to minimise the risk of employees causing transmission of the virus either within the mine or to community members. These include installation of hand-washing facilities; physical distancing and reduced workforce presence, strict isolation arrangements for workers coming on site; acquiring testing kits for mine and community clinics; shielding those with underlying health conditions that could increase their susceptibility to infection; food parcels and economic support measures for community members and close monitoring of their workforce’s health and wellbeing.

 

The risks that the virus poses to indigenous communities is of particular concern and many gold miners, such as Agnico Eagle, have implemented additional measures to shield them. Those companies active in Africa, such as Barrick, have been able to draw on expertise honed in dealing with Ebola outbreaks in the continent.

Many companies have drawn in additional medical expertise and facilities for both mines and their surrounding communities. Endeavour Mining mobilised an expert medical response team in the early weeks of the pandemic to work with host government institutions to help plan their response and to devise an epidemiological surveillance system. Many companies have distributed soap, hand sanitiser, medicines and face masks – sometimes made by local groups – to community members.

A notable intervention was AngloGold Ashanti’s move to donate two hospitals for use by public health authorities in the North West and Gauteng provinces of South Africa; the 290 bed West Vaal hospital and the West Wits hospital which had been closed but has infrastructure for up to 300 beds, including for piping oxygen. Newmont has identified three focus areas for its community fund – employee and community health; food security and local economic resilience. One focus for Newcrest Gold’s donations is support for vaccine development through the University of Queensland and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness innovations. The company is also making a major donation to support Papua New Guinea’s public health response.

But in addition to working closely with host governments and communities and employee representatives to weather the current storm, in many countries gold miners will be vital to the socio-economic recovery. As Newmont CEO, Tom Palmer commented ‘We not only want to protect our people and host communities from this pandemic, we want to build lasting resiliency so that communities thrive after the worst of the pandemic passes.’