Voices From the Ground: How the Global Mining Industry is Profiting from the COVID-19 Pandemic

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The mining industry is one of the most polluting, deadly, and destructive industries in the world. Yet to date, mining company responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have received little public scrutiny compared to other industries seeking to profit from this crisis.

This brief was written to provide in-depth cases which exemplify the four trends highlighted in the international open-letter “Global Solidarity with Communities, Indigenous Peoples and Workers at risk from Mining Pandemic Profiteers” (Appendix 1). The trends, which we expand upon here, pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of communities and organizations that have been struggling to defend public health and their environments against the destruction and devastation of mining extractivism for decades, as well as to the safety of workers in the mining sector.

This is not a comprehensive overview of the global mining industry, but rather an illustration of the trends we have analyzed together with the communities and social organizations with whom we have relationships in the Americas, the AsiaPacific region, continental Africa and Europe. We are motivated by the strength that mining-affected communities and Indigenous peoples are showing in increasingly difficult circumstances, and their voices vitally need to be heard.

We have complemented these findings with a review of nearly 500 media sources (primarily in English and Spanish, but also in French and Portuguese), press releases, and reports on mining in the context of COVID-19. The sources continue to be compiled collectively into an open database (into which many other organizations are contributing sources), which is available for reference upon request.

As such, this snapshot report focuses on the impacts on mining-affected communities and organizations, as well as workers in some cases. For the purposes of this effort, we will leave the analysis of metals and mineral markets; the movement around mergers and acquisitions; industry bail-out packages; and the increase in speculation (and thus financing) of new mining projects especially in “precious metals” to the major industry periodicals and newspapers that are covering those trends closely. This instead provides a glimpse into the lived on-the-ground realities that are not being widely analyzed in mainstream media.

This snapshot report was jointly produced by Earthworks (USA), Institute for Policy Studies – Global Economy Program (USA), London Mining Network (UK), MiningWatch Canada, Terra Justa, War on Want (UK) and Yes to Life No to Mining with input from numerous partner organizations and communities in different parts of the world.

The findings are updated until June 1, 2020.