As mine’s worldwide temporarily close to suppress the spread of Covid-19, and the ongoing pandemic wreaks havoc on metal prices, the risk of illegal mining to mine operations and communities is increasing. We look at some of the countries where Covid-19 is exacerbating illegal mine activity.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to temporary mine closures worldwide, as governments mandate non-essential businesses to close temporarily in order to suppress the spread of the virus. Aside from the production hit that these temporary mine closures lead to, there have been increasing concerns around illegal mining activity, which poses a risk to mineworkers as well as local communities.
On 22 April, Gemfields Group announced that they had suspended all but critical operations at their Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique. This closure has coincided with the government of Mozambique temporarily allowing the release of prisoners to reduce the risk of outbreaks of Covid-19 in prisons.
In the town of Montepuez, approximately 150 illegal miners have been released, sparking fears that Gemfield’s mine, the largest active ruby mine in the world, could be vulnerable while it operates with a skeleton crew.
Gemfields is no stranger to illegal mine activity on the site, and has recorded recent attacks on security teams at the mine. In February this year, 800 illegal miners invaded the ruby mine, leading to a series of tunnel collapses that killed more than a dozen people.
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