The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the extractive industries and related news

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most serious and difficult challenges the world has had to face in recent times. During the past year, many lives have been lost or significantly altered and it is probable that the loss of lives will further increase over the coming months. Besides the cost of lives and the deep health crisis, the economic crisis will also have a severe impact upon the wellbeing of large segments of the global population during the ensuing years.

By March 2021, in excess of 120 000 000 worldwide COVID-19 infections were recorded, with over 3 million deaths. The data changes daily and in some countries, the rate of deaths per one million has exceeded 75 000. To access the latest updates on the pandemic within the EU as well as worldwide visit the website of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control via ECDC.

The USA has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, followed by India and Brazil. Latin America has been severely affected by COVID-19: Brazil having more than 14 Million positive results from those persons tested as of March 2021, along with Colombia and Argentina with each almost 3 000 000 further cases. Mexico and Peru are also hard hit by the pandemic with more than 2 000 000 infections by March 2021. All of these alarming numbers are still on the increase.

For more information on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the world economy, visit the OECD’s global economic outlook March 2021.

Infections overview-COVID Current risk- up to May 2021

Infections overview-COVID Current risk- up to May 2021. (ECML Covid website of the JRC, European Union. See more)

Besides the huge impact the pandemic is causing to the lives of millions of people all over the world, COVID-19 is also affecting the economy in several sectors, including mining activities. Each Latin American and EU country has arrived at various decisions and adopted different measures in order to minimize the adverse effects. A general overview of the situation is described below.

For information on the impact of COVID-19 on the geological surveys in Latin America as well as measures related to the pandemic, please access the section: “Geological Surveys”.

European Union

Global action to contain the spread of COVID-19, such as disruption of supply chains of products made in China and other Asian countries or restrictions to the free movement of business activities, have negatively impacted the European economy since the crisis started in March 2020. To minimize this economic impact, the EU has adopted measures in different areas that include research, health and budgets. Read more on the COVID-19 response measures of the European Union.

To relieve the effects of COVID-19 in the economic sector, the EU has developed a recovery fund to help countries in handling the crisis caused by the pandemic. Amongst these measures, certain countries have received financial support packages in order to mitigate unemployment risks. Read more about the EU recovery plan.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected global commodity markets. Nonetheless, and according to the World Bank´s Commodity Market Outlook for October 2020, metal prices recovered in the third quarter of 2020 due to a swift pick up in China’s industrial activity. Find the link to the report in the MDNP Library. Metal prices are projected to see modest gains of 2% during 2021 although the main risk to these forecasts in prices is the unknown duration of the pandemic.

Latin America

The CEPAL, (Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe), publishes country specific information for all Latin American countries and the Caribbean in its COVID-19 Observatory. The webpage follows-up on COVID-19 measures in these countries via listed categories that include movement, health, economy, labour, social protection and others. The page also provides links for more in-depth information gathering.

The Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) has published an analysis on mining tax policy responses to COVID-19.

The UNDP has published a series of documents on how to address the COVID-19 crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean HERE.

Access the MDNP library, which provides a collection of links to analysis, podcasts and other relevant material covering one or several countries in the geographical scope of the MDNP.

Argentina

The approval of the Sanitary Emergency lockdown in March 2020 excluded mining activities from the list of essential activities. After a few weeks the aforementioned decision was subsequently revised; rendering mining production, distribution and commercialization activities as exempt from the prior Isolation Regime.

The national government, some provincial governments and the CAEM (Cámara Argentina de Empresas Mineras) issued COVID-19 prevention protocols. The Centro de Información Minera de Argentina of the Ministry of Productive Development published: prevention recommendations for the mining sector.

Although no other specific regulations were issued in relation to mining activities, the national government has issued some labour and employment benefits that can be accessed by mining companies. Mining companies are introducing preventive measures for their mining projects in order to protect their staff, such as reinforcement of medical assistance, preventive health protocols and wherever possible, working remotely.

Find further information related to the situation in Argentina’s mining sector in the MDNP Library in folder “COVID-19”. For example the link to the analysis “Labour in the Argentinean metalliferous mining industry in the context of the COVID pandemic”. For the latest information on COVID-19 and the Argentinian mining sector, visit the websites of Conciencia Minera, CAEM and the Ministry of Health’s Situation Room on COVID-19.

Country specific information on Argentina from the CEPAL COVID-19 Observatory is published HERE.

Brazil

A new Law, (No. 13.979/20), was enacted during February 2020 in response to the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The law provides for the possibility of competent authorities to implement social isolation, business closures and quarantine at national level. The decree provides that activities related to the supply chain of public services are to be considered as essential activities and should therefore remain uninterrupted.

Due to the large iron ore capacity of Brazil and the increased demand emerging from other countries, the mining sector is likely to be the first to recover from the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 as reported by business, mining and news outlets.

The Brazilian Government is optimistic about the production and recovery of the mining sector and anticipates improvement to the country’s economy for 2021.

Further information is available on the website of the: ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribe) office in Brazil.

Country specific information on Brazil from the CEPAL COVID-19 Observatory is published: HERE.

Chile

In March 2020, due to the pandemic, the president of the Republic of Chile declared a state of emergency and catastrophe. COVID-19 has significantly affected the Chilean economy, which had just begun to recover from the prior social crisis of 2019. For a more detailed analysis read the OECD information on Chile. For information on Chile’s plan for recovery, visit the governmental website “Paso a paso – Chile se recupera”.

During the state of emergency, no lockdowns were decreed in the mining regions but mining companies adopted safety measures to avoid contagion among workers.

Despite the overall impact of COVID-19 in Chile, the mining sector has been one of a few economic sectors in which production has remained almost unaltered.

In fact, according to Cochilco (Comisión Chilena del Cobre), the production of Copper has increased from the start of 2020 in comparison to the same period in 2019. However, later in 2020, the mining industry suffered the impact of the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, facing lower market related prices for copper, along with the closure of some mines. For an up-to-date overview of worldwide commodity statistics that are important for Chile and in comparison to Chilean production, access the website of Consejo Minero.

Country specific information on Chile from the CEPAL COVID-19 Observatory is published HERE.

Colombia

The government has not stopped mining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the largest coal companies in Guajira and Cesar have reduced their activities in order to mitigate the impact of the virus. Gold mining has continued as usual, mainly in Antioquia, probably due to the strong increase in market prices for this metal.

Some companies have taken steps to reduce their workforce (thus, reducing their production) or placed their operations in care and maintenance. Nonetheless, mining operations have largely been able to continue under the lockdown measures. Small and medium sized mines have been more affected by the pandemic. For responses in small-scale mining visit the “Plataforma Integral de Minería a Pequeña Escala”.

For information on how the ministry of mines addresses the challenges posed by the pandemic visit its website.

Country specific information on Colombia from the CEPAL COVID-19 Observatory is published: HERE.

Mexico

On the 30th of March 2020 the Federal Government declared a national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Health ordered the immediate suspension of non-essential activities from March 30th to April 30th. The suspension was subsequently extended until May 18th to all municipalities with low or null virus transmission and to May 30th for all other municipalities.

The mining sector was not considered an essential activity up until June 2020. Therefore, most of the mining activities were also locked down for several weeks. As a consequence of these restrictions, mining companies have reported weaker performance figures of production and financial results.

In June 2020, mining activities were declared as amongst the essential activities.

Country specific information on Mexico from the CEPAL COVID-19 Observatory is published: HERE.

For general information on COVID-19 form the Mexican government visit its website.

Find links to articles of renowned mining journals on the COVID-19 impact on the Mexican extractive sector in the MDNP Library.

Peru

The Peruvian Government declared a national state of emergency from the 15th of March 2020 until the 31st of January 2021. In some Departments mobility restrictions and curfew periods are in place. For more information click HERE.

In general, mining activities have been reduced at most sites and non-critical personnel have been evacuated. In the case of mines with isolated mining camps, activities have continued, but operations have been reduced. The mining sector is also suffering the decrease of prices, especially for copper and certain other metals; while a further rise in the gold price is anticipated.

Further information on the impact of the pandemic on the Peruvian mining sector is published by the Instituto de Ingenieros de Minas del Perú (IIMP), which has published a review of the impact of the pandemic on the Peruvian mining sector as well as a possible future scenario. The mining sector will prove to be essential for the recovery and boost of the Peruvian economy.

Browse general information on COVID-19 on the Peruvian government’s dedicated Coronavirus site.

Country specific information on Peru from the CEPAL COVID-19 Observatory is published: HERE.

Uruguay

Restriction policies have had an impact on economic activities in the country; however, Uruguay is one for the countries in Latin America less affected by the pandemic.

Country specific information on Uruguay from the CEPAL COVID-19 Observatory is published HERE. An analysis of the pandemic impacts and policy options in Uruguay was published by UNDP.

For information on the government’s position for how the pandemic may influence the future mining sector in Uruguay access its website.