SarWatch Writer
SARW calls on Mining Companies in Africa to Support the Fight against Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) in the Workplace and in Surrounding Communities

Following calls made by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the UN Secretary General and the World Health Organization (WHO) for businesses and governments to respond to COVID- 19 as a global health emergency, SARW calls on all mining companies operating on the African continent to play an active role in assisting governments to mitigate the effects of the pandemic at the workplace and in surrounding communities. WHO has developed detailed prevention guidelines that are needed to reduce the transmission of the virus.

COVID-19 has spread to several African countries, already riddled with poor disease surveillance and inadequate public health systems. The fight against the virus requires concerted efforts by governments, individuals, and businesses. Mining companies are key players on the continent who complement the various socio-economic efforts of governments, including the health sector. As part of companies’ corporate social responsibility initiatives, it is imperative that corporates channel available financial resources into fighting against this global pandemic.

It is important to emphasise that the conditions under which mineworkers live and work are highly conducive to the spread of the virus. Many mineworkers already suffer from compromised immune systems and respiratory diseases. SARW calls on mining companies to urgently introduce working and living conditions that meet the WHO recommendations. Reinforced and mandatory health and safety measures need to be implemented on each mining site, and governments must ensure that these are respected by everyone. Mining companies are encouraged to also put in place workforce protections in terms of adequate disease surveillance, quarantine and isolation procedures, medical treatment and related actions for their workers. It is clear that safety, hygiene and protection measures require strict health controls for persons both entering and leaving the mines.

Companies need to understand that their workers do not live in isolation from the broader community. Mining companies must ensure that their facilities have running water, soap and hand sanitisers both at the surface and underground, and ensure that adequate physical and social distances are maintained at all times on the sites. Given the high poverty levels and underdevelopment of local health systems in mining areas, it is important that mining companies deliberately deploy financial resources in strengthening emergency health systems and access to information on COVID-19 transmission prevention in communities living near their mines. During these uncertain times, to avoid the spread of COVID-19 which could ultimately force governments to suspend all economic activities, safety and health measures are paramount in all sectors.

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