The Ebola outbreak in western African has prompted several mining companies, such as Vale, to suspend production and evacuate their expat staff as the epidemic has killed at least 2,100 people in five African countries.
However, other mining companies, such as Rio Tinto, Freeport-McMoRan, Newmont and Randgold Resources, have worked to battle the epidemic.
Combatting the spread of the virus requires West African governments to work closely with international agencies, health service provides and mining companies, which now have a duty to think above and beyond Ebola, said Rokaje Akinkugbe, head of energy and natural resources coverage at FBN Capital in Lagos, Nigeria.
“…Mining companies have a role to play because there will definitely be a greater pullback on mine sites as the disease impacts the workforce. And for a mining companies, its workforce is essential to long-term survival,” Akinkugbe told Think Advisor.com
Mining operations in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria have provided financial backing and increased sanitation for their employees to help fight the disease. Six mining companies have been involved in the emerging infectious disease risk mitigation project funded by USAID, including Freeport McMoRan, MMG Limited, Mawson West and Tiger Resources.
On Monday, the CEOs of 11 mining and related companies called on the international community to step up the fight against Ebola and welcomed President Obama’s statement on additional U.S. military support.
“Our companies have made long term commitments to these countries and their people and we intend to honor that commitment,” declared the CEOs of African Mining Services, ArcelorMittal, Aureus Mining, Dawnus Group, Golden Veroleum Liberia, Hummingbird Resources, Iamgold, London Mining, MonuRent, Newmont Mining and Randgold Resources.
“We have strong ties to hundreds of local communities that depend on our operations. Despite the challenging environment, we are continuing where possible with normal operations, with the health and safety of our employees being the absolute priority at all times,” said the executives. “We have enormous respect for the organizations and selfless individuals working to contain this outbreak and are committed to support them and the governments concerned to bring the epidemic to an end. As a group we are in regular dialogue with governments, NGOs, and other tasks forces involved to support their work.”
However, the executives stressed that a larger coordinated global effort was required. “The global community has a strong track record in responding to natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes. We need a similar strength of resolve to tackle an epidemic that has the potential to cause great harm to this region.”
“We therefore urge the international community to pool its resources and lend support to help reverse the virus and enable these countries to recover as swiftly as possible from dealing with the epidemic,” they said. “Yesterday’s declaration by President Obama concerning U.S. military support in the region is exactly the type of action that is required.”
Last week international health officials said the window for getting the epidemic under control is closing with the failure of world leaders to recognize earlier the severity of the crisis, stressing that NGOs and West African governments alone do not have the capacity to stem the spread of Ebola.
President Obama said Sunday that the U.S. military will provide equipment and other assistance for international health workers in response to pressures from some groups including Doctors Without Borders. “We’re going to have to get U.S. military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world,” he said.
Their priorities also include the mass expansion of isolation centers, air bridges to move personnel and equipment to and within the most affected countries, mobile laboratories for testing and diagnosis, and building a regional network of field hospitals to treat suspected or infected medical personnel, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
The mining companies warned that “there is a risk the measures being taking to restrict travel to the countries most impacted by the virus will aggravate the growing humanitarian crisis”.
“Ebola is without doubt a horrific virus. But it is a virus that with the right understanding, precautions and processes in place should be avoidable and containable,” the CEOs observed. “That’s why we are calling for the immediate opening of humanitarian and economic corridors to the affected countries and urge the international community to respect the ECOWAS (Economic of West African States) call to lift any travel bans in accordance with the WHO (World Health Organization) recommendation.”
“Without the support of the international community, the situation for these economies, many of whom are only beginning to return to stability after decades of civil war will be even more catastrophic,” the CEOs warned.
“Extractive companies, mining and others, always come under great scrutiny in times like these, so there’s a real chance here to go beyond the current outbreak itself and think of long-term survival in terms of helping to foster an environment that promotes sustainable and inclusive growth, and health is an integral aspect of that,” said Akinkugbe.