Since mid-March, the response of governments worldwide to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to severe disruption of mining activities across a large number of countries. A total of 32 countries have passed partial or complete lockdown orders, leading to the temporary suspension of activities at over 1,600 mines, as of 3 April. However, as lockdowns have ended and mines are increasingly being considered as an essential service, this number fell to 729 – as of 27 April. The exempted mines are, however, operating with reduced numbers of workers to minimise the potential spread of the virus, which is causing a slow return for the industry, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Vinneth Bajaj, Mining Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Silver production is currently being severely damaged by lockdown measures. As of 27 April, the equivalent of 65.8% of annual global silver production was on hold. Silver mining companies such as First Majestic, Hochschild, Hecla Mining and Endeavour Silver have all withdrawn their production guidance for 2020 in the wake of the outbreak.
“In addition, 32% of uranium production, 23.8% of zinc, 19.5% platinum, 14.6% of nickel, 14.4% of diamond, and 12.7% of copper were placed on hold as of 27 April. Progress has also been halted on 23 mines under construction, including the US$5.3bn Quellaveco copper mine in Peru, which is one of the world’s biggest copper mines currently under development. The project has an annual copper production capacity of up to 180kt and is expected to commence operations by 2022. In Chile, while a lockdown is not in force, Antofagasta has halted work on its Los Pelambres project and Teck Resources has suspended work on the Quebrada Blanca Phase II mine.”
At present, lockdowns remain in force in countries such as Peru (until 10 May), Mexico (30 May), Bolivia (30 April) and Namibia (4 May). In Quebec, the government extended restrictions to 4 May, however, it is allowing mines to reopen from 15 April as essential services if they comply with strict measures to limit the spread of the virus. Restrictions on mining in India, Argentina, Zimbabwe and South Africa have also been withdrawn, with mining seen as an essential service.