In the midst of lockdown and shelter-in-place orders, the mining industry and its workers are also facing difficult situations caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
According to the long list of essential businesses released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, mining businesses, particularly coal producers, are critical in ensuring the continuity and reliability of the energy system. Workers at coal mines, including those in coal production facilities and in monitoring mine sites, are being called to report for work.
Current State of the Global Mining Industry
Proponents of the mining industry assert that mining operations are essential because they furnish minerals not only for the production of energy but also materials, such as, but not limited to steel for defense equipment manufacturers, fertilizers for the agricultural sector, and aluminum for use of canned food manufacturers. Nations need to maintain adequate stocks of minerals especially during times of crisis, so as not to deplete supplies critical to the production of energy and other economic demands.
However, news in the mining industry has reported that most global mining companies are experiencing production slowdown. Mainly because governments are imposing restrictions deemed necessary in delaying, if not preventing the continuing spread of the Covid-19 infection even in mine sites.
Other mining operations have been forced to close down after several workers tested positive with the novel coronavirus. Health authorities are concerned that mines are high risk areas because the remoteness of their locations limits access to health care and emergency medical responses.
The mining industry in remote countries is said to be grappling in devising solutions on how to deal with the problems presented by the ongoing global health crisis.
Nonetheless In Vancouver, where mines, steel plants and saw mils continue to operate, worker unions are collaborating with employers in formulating protocols for workers to observe; whilst aligned wi5h the restrictions mandated by the Canadian government. Aside from screening procedures, they are also implementing staggered start and end of shifts and lunch-break schedules. That way, congestion could be alleviated in shower rooms, welfare areas and cafeterias; allowing workers to strictly observe social distancing.
Moreover, employers have assigned pandemic coordinators in different work sites to make certain that only accurate and timely information will be shared by employees. Apparently, in order to prevent “fake news” from spreading and causing anxiety and/or panic among mine workers.
Potential Challenges Faced by U.S.-Based Mine Contractors and Workers
Mining operations also involve participation of American contractors, usually to render repairs and maintenance services. Ever since it was announced that the northern U.S.-Canaddian border will allow entry only to those connected to essential businesses, processing of manifests and other documents have become slower, Apparently verifications include not only checking of credentials and other documents, but also, determining if the referenced business is regarded as essential by both countries.
Contractors like me are also concerned that if my vehicle gets stalled in Canada, will U.S.-based tow truck services near me be allowed entry to provide roadside assistance? Although we are glad that Canada allows mining sites to stay open for business, we cannot help but feel anxious about the potential threats of the Covid-19 disease on our well-being and safety.