Pandemic Profiteering: How Mining Companies Seek to Benefit from COVID-19

In March, as much of the world was beginning to grapple with the new reality of COVID-19 and country after country entered into lockdown, a small coalition of organizations dedicated to supporting mining-impacted communities came together to track and monitor how mining companies and mining regulators around the world were reacting to the pandemic.

This initiative, started by MiningWatch Canada, soon evolved into a global, multilingual, collaborative effort as grassroots groups from mining-affected communities and NGOs from around the world fed into this collective process. We crowd-sourced news articles, company statements, government directives, and worker and community complaints.

After analyzing hundreds of examples of wrongdoing by mining companies, we started to see four major trends emerging:

  1. Mining companies are ignoring the threat of the pandemic and continuing to operate, putting communities and workers at grave risk of infection; 
  2. Governments and mining companies are using the pretext of a lockdown to exacerbate violence against defenders and repress community protests, in order to make way for more mining; 
  3. Mining companies have been donating money, sanitary supplies and test-kits in an attempt to distract from their track record of harm and portray themselves as public saviours; and 
  4. Governments and politicians are securing regulatory changes to eliminate public oversight for existing mines and expedite permits for new operations. 

These trends were outlined in a global solidarity statement which gathered more than 300 signatures from organizations around the world (the statement is also available in Spanish, Portuguese and French).

To bring the voices of those directly affected by these realities to the forefront, we also co-produced a report which highlights dozens of these cases from around the world (also available in Spanish and Portuguese).


Making Clean Energy Clean, Just and Equitable

Several of the cases featured in the report are from regions where nickel, lithium or cobalt are being extracted. Earthworks has been building relationships with communities and local NGOs on the frontlines of these expanding mining frontiers to help ensure that the sourcing of minerals for batteries and other low-carbon technologies is as just and equitable as possible. The actions of mining companies and government regulators in the context of the pandemic raise serious concerns about the environmental and social impacts of mineral sourcing for low-carbon technologies, and highlight the need for greater action in solidarity with workers and communities along these supply chains.

The path forward to a Just Recovery

We call on national governments to respect and support the autonomous organizing and self-determining processes of mining-affected communities and Indigenous peoples. Economic “reactivation” must not promote more mining, but should, instead, acknowledge and bolster community-based initiatives.

We call on international human rights bodies to pay close attention and actively condemn human rights violations committed by governments and mining corporations during the pandemic and the recovery period to follow. 

We stand in solidarity with the frontline communities, Indigenous peoples and workers most affected by the COVID-19 crisis and the mining industry’s response. We call on others to support them in their vital campaigns for collective wellbeing and justice.


Banner image: front cover of the Voices From the Ground report and back cover featuring a photo of a protest in Esquel, Argentina taken by Nicolás Palacios – the protestor’s sign reads: “With masks on, but eyes wide open, we continue saying no to megamining”.