Mine disruptions escalate as virus rips around globe

On a global scale, work is grinding to a halt and operations at mines are being temporarily suspended as majors and minors move to enact measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

With governments from Africa to Latin America issuing lockdown orders, disruptions to operations and supply chains are affecting the outlook for industrial and precious metals. Most of the majors have now announced halts at gold-copper operations.

Japan’s Sumitomo became the latest major diversified miner to temporarily suspend operations at some of its mines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The measure announced March 26 affects the company’s San Cristobal silver-zinc-lead mine in Bolivia and its Ambatovy nickel mine in Madagascar, as curfews have been imposed in those countries.

Trevali Mining temporarily stopped production at its Caribou zinc-lead-silver mine in Canada’s New Brunswick province on March 26 as challenges presented by the spread of covid-19 have added to woes posed by weak conditions in the zinc market.

On March 26, Glencore halted a number of smaller mines due to government restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus but said its larger operations were not materially impacted.

After announcing late last week a temporary suspension of operations until at least March 31 at its 49%-owned San José mine in Argentina, McEwen Mining reported on March 26 that it will also be suspending production at its Black Fox mine in Ontario and Gold Bar in Nevada.

On March 25, Codelco of Chile said it will temporarily suspend construction on some projects. Codelco said the 15-day suspension applied to remaining work being carried out to make Chuquicamata an underground mine, and projects at an early stage at Rajo Inca and Traspaso Andina.

A loader at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Stillwater PGM mine in Montana. Credit: Sibanye-Stillwater.

A loader at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Stillwater PGM mine in Montana. Credit: Sibanye-Stillwater.

Sibanye-Stillwater announced March 25 that it has begun implementing measures to place its South African gold and PGM operations under temporary care and maintenance, in accordance with the nationwide lockdown for 21 days, effective midnight on  March 26.

Miners in Ecuador are temporarily halting all activity in the country, following the government’s call to stay home.

AngloGold Ashanti announced March 24 that it will temporarily suspend production from its South Africa operations for three weeks as of midnight on March 26.

OceanaGold announced March 24 that the Waihi gold operation in the North Island of New Zealand will go on temporary care and maintenance for four weeks in response to measures put in place by the New Zealand government.

Yamana Gold announced March 24 that it will scale back operations at its Canadian Malartic mine, Canada’s largest gold mine.

Rio Tinto’s Richards Bay Minerals in South Africa will halt production by midnight March 26. The company will put furnaces on care and maintenance. Rio Tinto will also slow activities at aluminum assets in Canada.

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