Mine sites are hotspots for COVID-19, new report finds

Mines in Canada, the US and around the world have become hotspots for the spread of coronavirus, according to a report by an international coalition of non-profit groups, with approximately 4,000 mine workers across 18 countries testing positive.

In a separate statement, more than 330 organisations around the world accused the mining industry of ignoring the threats of pandemic and using it to weaken regulations. “We reject the central claim that mining represents an essential service,” it reads.

Kirsten Francescone of MiningWatch Canada said the mining industry pushed governments to declare them ‘essential’ and many continue to operate throughout the pandemic in North America. “Mine workers and members of nearby Indigenous and remote rural communities are at grave risk,” she said.

The report used field and media reports and company statements to document at least 69 mining sites around the world with serious outbreaks, with one third of the companies operating those sites headquartered in Canada.

One case study revealed that at least 25 workers were infected and one worker has died at the Lac des Iles palladium mine operated by Impala Canada in Northern Ontario. A nearby Indigenous community reported at least eight people infected in connection with the mine outbreak in a community of only 300.

Responding to the allegations, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) Pierre Gratton said: “Within our membership in Canada, mines are operating Covid free.” MAC does not represent all Canadian mining firms.