MOSCOW/LONDON/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – From using drones for field inspections to stockpiling cyanide, miners are scrambling to maintain output amid the coronavirus pandemic, a task made trickier in underground mines where social distancing is nearly impossible.
The virus has claimed 8,700 lives and infected over 200,000 globally. While miners have faced some outages, due to government shutdowns in places like Peru and Mongolia, most production continues.
In a defensive step, miners have begun stockpiling fuel, hydrofluoric acid, lime and other industry staples, including cyanide, which is used to extract gold from rock.
“I’m sure every mine is trying to do the same thing,” Clive Johnson, chief executive of Africa-focused B2Gold Corp, told Reuters. Chilean miner Antofagasta Plc has start using drones to inspect tailings dams, which store industry waste rock. Manual inspections can take days and put engineers in close contact with each other.
The coronavirus “is actually providing us a very significant opportunity to be able to step forward on our use of technology,” Antofagasta CEO Iván Arriagada said.