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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Diversified mining company Anglo American is going to remarkable lengths to support South Africa through the devastating Covid-19 crisis.
The London- and Johannesburg-listed company, headed by Australian Mark Cutifani, is showing far-reaching corporate humanitarianism by taking firm steps to support employees, host communities, contractors, suppliers, hospitals, water authorities – and even producing educational videos on Covid-19 for 70 local clinics.
Despite operating at reduced levels in South Africa, the company is still spending $125-million a week on the procurement of goods and services from suppliers and on wages, while also generating vital export earnings, and is continuing to pay the salaries of all of its 47 000 employees during the 21-day lockdown period, ensuring that they are able to focus on the health and safety of their families and their local communities.
Its support of small- and medium-sized businesses includes:
- a payment holiday until the end of June on any loans;
- communication around any government support available to them; and
- working closely with its supply chain to ensure that there is adequate contractual support and inclusive procurement.
“We have a duty to help keep South Africa’s economic wheels turning so that people get paid, so that essential services can continue, so that the government earns some taxes, but we must do so in a way that keeps people healthy,” Cutifani stated in a release to Mining Weekly.
On Monday, Anglo provided an update of its response to the fast-evolving Covid-19 pandemic, which also extends Covid-19 safeguards and assistance to its people in Botswana, Namibia, Australia, Canada, Chile, Peru and the UK.
Countries and territories where it has a presence beyond its mining operations, for example, where it is conducting exploration work, are also being assisted. These include Ecuador, where it has sourced and is distributing thousands of essential support kits to medical facilities in the many small communities around its exploration project, including gloves, masks and sanitising gel. In Zambia, it is providing hygiene essentials as well as fuel to help local government distribute information leaflets to communities.
Being implemented are health, hygiene and distancing measures, asset integrity, essential raw material supply and preservation of the ability to return operations to normal levels as swiftly as possible when appropriate.
“We want to ensure we are ready to support what will be a crucial economic recovery phase for the countries in which we operate and the global economy,” Cutifani stated.
The global mining company has a longstanding commitment to responsible mining and sees itself as having a vital role to play in delivering support to its host communities throughout this difficult time.
In addition to the broad-based economic and social contribution that mining makes and the essential services that the company provides in many communities, it is responding with additional support targeted directly at the health and economic effects of Covid-19.
It has committed to continuing to provide all the appropriate support that it possibly can – focused not only on this current phase of prevention and response to the pandemic itself, but also into the all-important recovery phase when the swift resumption of economic activity will be so important.
‘UTMOST CONSIDERATION AND CARE’
As South Africa’s largest mining company, operating in many underdeveloped areas of the country, it has assumed the mantle of acting with "the utmost consideration and care” towards the host communities that depend on it – “particularly during a time such as this”.
In many instances, the company drives the development and maintenance of essential infrastructure and services including roads, health facilities, medication, clean water, and energy, which are needed now more than ever.
“Our overwhelming priority is the safety and health of our people and their families. We are continuing to operate only where we can do safely and by having all appropriate health measures in place. If we believe we cannot operate in a way that adequately protects our people or our communities, we will adjust our plans on a site-by-site basis,” Cutifani stated.
Even with certain operations at a reduced level of activity, this means it can most effectively support the government’s proactive efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
This approach enables the company to have the people and resources in place to continue providing chronic medication to those who need it, make health infrastructure available to support the national effort, and provide access to basic provisioning such as food and water during this crisis.
As a result of keeping its coal mines operating, for example, it is able to keep its water treatment plant in Mpumalanga open and ensure that community members have access to clean water at this critical time.
“We are also able to continue generating economic value for South Africa at a time when it needs it most,” Cutifani added.
In addition to the continued provision of a wide variety of essential community services across the country that are business-as-usual for the company, it is providing other services in host communities to aid the country’s response to the pandemic, including:
- providing water tanks to 69 villages in host communities;
- supporting 70 local clinics by producing educational videos on Covid-19 and how to keep one’s family safe;
- training of clinic staff and community healthcare workers;
- supplying clinical personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning materials;
- providing 6 000 food parcels a month for three months to vulnerable households in quarantine;
- communicating with its people via its community engagement app on social connection, isolation instructions and mental health support;
- partnering with the Department of Health to identify suitable isolation and quarantine facilities and equipping them to the required specifications;
- providing healthcare services and testing through its Ulysses Gogi Modise Primary Healthcare Centre, which is open to the public;
- assisting government with emergency medical response through the provision of six ambulances in the Northern Cape;
- providing masks, thermometers, surgical gloves, additional beds and tent structures at the Postmasburg Hospital in the Northern Cape;
- making its Highveld Hospital available for use to treat Covid-19 patients by installing 85 additional bed units;
- moving regular patients to other private hospitals in the area, freeing up an additional 107 beds that can be used as isolation beds;
- recommissioning the tuberculosis ward to be able to treat Covid-19 patients in isolation; and
- sanitising pay-points and distributing language-friendly pamphlets to the elderly.
These additional measures are tailored to the specific needs of host communities and include providing additional hospital facilities, beds, medical equipment and PPE, while also providing accommodation to health professionals.
"We are continuing to increase and broaden our monetary and in-kind support as conditions and needs evolve.
“Throughout this global pandemic, we are guided by our Purpose and we are staying true to our values. Consistent with the extended breadth of our support to local and regional communities, I would like to thank our colleagues across the globe for their continued hard work and dedication to stay safe, fit and healthy during these challenging times.”
In Australia, the resource sector has been deemed an essential service and Anglo is continuing to operate, with all appropriate safety, health and hygiene measures and physical distancing protocols in place.
It is working closely with government authorities, industry and community organisations to ensure a coordinated approach to reducing the spread of Covid-19 and to keep the communities where it operates safe.
“We’re working closely with our communities to understand how we can best support people who are impacted, including reducing our payment terms for all small-to-medium businesses to 14 days, supporting vulnerable groups through our grants programme, and helping with critical supplies to regions.
“We’re also reducing commuter workforce movements through our communities by stopping non-essential travel to our sites and relocating some people to live locally,” Cutifani said.
Furthermore, it is moving from using commercial to charter flights for its workforce to ensure physical distancing and hygiene measures are complied with and to reduce interaction with the public.
In Botswana, diamonds in general, and the government’s partnership with De Beers in particular, have played a central role in the country’s socioeconomic development.
A 50:50 joint venture (JV) between the government and De Beers, Debswana's mines in the country, and the medical facilities that the business has established around them, are providing support to Botswana’s medical preparations in relation to Covid-19. This support includes:
- making facilities available to be utilised by government health authorities as treatment/isolation centres;
- making two ambulances available to support wider healthcare efforts in the country;
- compiling databases of retired medical personnel from Jwaneng and Orapa hospitals for government health authorities;
- collaborating with district health response teams to jointly identify and support vulnerable households; and
- providing local government with financial support to assist with procurement of supplies, as well as donating much needed items such as sanitiser.
In Canada, De Beers’ Gahcho Kué mine is located in a remote northern area where smaller communities provide a significant proportion of the workforce. As such, De Beers has engaged with partners to ensure that employees from communities that are especially vulnerable to the spread of Covid-19 are able to isolate themselves and avoid the risk of bringing an infection back to the community. Shift patterns for workers at the Gahcho Kué mine have been adapted to minimise the amount of travel required. Gahcho Kué mine has also provided funding to each community to purchase food hampers for at-risk community members.
In Chile, Anglo’s operations continue to operate with all appropriate safety, health and hygiene measures and social distancing protocols in place.
An emergency fund has been established to support the supply of key medical and other items, as well as stimulate local economic recovery once the pandemic eases. Its efforts are focused in the Metropolitan and Valparaíso regions, where its operations are located.
The delivery of these supplies will be channelled through the municipal health services and the neighbourhood councils, to ensure its efforts are targeting the priority areas.
Anglo is also planning to implement a series of initiatives that seek to support the vital economic recovery phase for local communities. The initiatives include the strengthening of programmes focused on promoting employment and entrepreneurship at the local level; supporting local small and medium-sized enterprises through financing alternatives for re-entrepreneurship; and the unemployed, through training opportunities with local networks.
It has also put in place measures to support the contractors and suppliers to Anglo operations.
Suppliers whose contracts require bank guarantee slips will be able to replace them with guarantee insurance, a measure that will allow them to improve their liquidity and ensure they are able to continue doing business. The value of the guarantee can be between 5% and 20% of the value of the contract. This initiative will benefit 215 suppliers and contractors in Chile.
In the north of Chile, the Collahuasi copper mine, in which Anglo American owns a 44% interest, has donated a state-of-the-art Covid-19 testing machine, which generates results in four hours, to its local Tarapacá Health Service.
In Namibia, Namdeb Holdings, a 50:50 JV between the Government and De Beers) plays a key role both nationally and in local communities surrounding diamond recovery areas. Namdeb Holdings and the Debmarine Namibia-Namdeb Foundation have already put in place a range of support both nationally and at a local level in support of the country’s response to Covid-19, including:
- making facilities available to be utilised by government health authorities as treatment/isolation centres;
- ordering 30 ventilators and vital signs monitors for local hospitals, mainly in Windhoek and Oranjemund;
- co-funding a sanitation programme in Windhoek’s informal settlement where households are at high risk owing to lack of sanitation services and inability to self-isolate;
- providing isolation facilities, a testing machine, PPE for Oranjemund Town Council employees and financial support for the publication of local Covid-19 education material; and
- providing isolation facilities in the town of Luderitz.
In Peru, all but critical work on Anglo’s Quellaveco copper project is suspended and the company is supporting emergency efforts by providing much-needed food, PPE, testing kits, transport and intensive-care facilities, including:
- 9 700 food packages distributed to families in various districts and provinces in Moquegua, where the Quellaveco project is located;
- 4 350 meal packs a day to health employees and volunteers, the army and police;
- 25 000 Covid-19 quick-testing kits in partnership with the National Mining Society’s initiative to donate 500 000 test kits;
- 10 000 protection masks and pairs of gloves for police and army forces;
- vehicles to help transport health personnel; and
- six intensive care bed stations, with all required equipment, including ventilators.
In the UK, Anglo has made available 13 apartments in its St Andrews House building, which forms part of the group’s new London headquarters, for National Health Service staff working at the nearby St Bart’s Hospital over the next three months.
Its De Beers operation in Maidenhead has converted its three-dimensional (3D) printers from developing parts for synthetic detection machines, to instead making headbands for the face shields that form part of the PPE being worn by healthcare staff.
The four 3D printers, which will be working 24 hours a day, are expected to produce between 25 and 30 headband components a day.
At its Woodsmith Project, Anglo is currently exploring ways in which it can further support a number of existing local initiatives.
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