Managing the Covid-19 Threat: A Tale from the Andes
Updated: May 21
Miners and energy companies in most parts of the world are only too aware that suspicion (if not blame) for any health or environmental issue of uncertain origin is likely to be pinned on them. Covid19 has added another explosive issue to the mix. Companies who do not put robust Social Health Environment and Community (SHEC) protocols and communications in place around the pandemic assume serious risk to their operating license. The Covid19 threat and the mitigation thereof is illustrated clearly in the case of a client mining company operating near indigenous communities in the Andean Region of South of America.
In mid-March an elder woman in a Shuar indigenous community succumbed to an illness with COVID19 like symptoms. Two weeks prior, on March 1, a delegation from the community had travelled to the PDAC Mining Conference in Canada to learn about the industry. Quickly rumours spread in the project vicinity that the returning delegation had brought the virus into the communities. The company’s measures to manage the risk and preserve the trust of their stakeholders was outlined in a clear communique distributed in the nearby communities and online. A summary as follows: As of the date of publication, April 3, the company informed that 30 days after the committee’s return to Ecuador, no member of the committee showed symptoms of infection with Covid-19. It then proceeded a chronology of events and measures taken: March 5 - Committee returns to Ecuador, undergoing health evaluations on arrival including temperature checks and breathing auscultation (regularity). No irregularities found. March 6 - Return into communities abided by the Ministry of Health Protocols, taking temperature, monitoring breathing auscultation. None of the members presented symptoms. 9 to 13 March - Evaluation of health and examination for symptoms made by company doctor and the public health team at the ministry of health centre. As a result, none of the members presented symptoms. It included a reminder that the committee had left and returned prior to the implementation of restrictions on movement in Ecuador decreed on the 16th of march.
The company communicated their sincere condolences to the family of the deceased, along with other messaging:
The company rejected false accusations of the alleged importation of COVID-19 from a member of the company who travelled to Canada, and the alarmism being spread for partisan reasons.
It informed it has applied health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It maintains a health staff that is constantly making evaluations of the workforce and nearest communities for possible symptoms and health impacts.
It affirmed its commitment to maintaining the good health of its workers and nearby communities.
AFTERWORD on TECHNOLOGY
It is also in situations such as this where companies will be very well served – and sometimes saved – by incorporating technology solutions to manage critical information. With workforces and local communities numbering in the hundreds or thousands, practical, user friendly, and comprehensive (SHEC) Governance and Regulatory Compliance (GRC) solutions such as IsoMetrix are the best way to keep process data robust and useful in strategic and tactical decisions. They also demonstrate a strong commitment to Environmental and Social Governance.
To discuss how to manage your community and ESG risks and technology solutions contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Adam McEniry is expert at managing the environmental social and governance issues surrounding extractive sector projects. His passion is putting measures and communications in place to bring stakeholders together through respect, and mutually beneficial outcomes. He’s lived, worked, or travelled in 57 countries.