Update 3: Impacts of COVID-19 on ASM: Insights from the ground
Sierra Leone: with first reported COVID-19 case, most artisanal miners continue their operations but suffer economically from crashing local mineral prices
Country Overview ASM Workforce: 300,000 miners, including appr. 80,000 ASGM miners COVID-19 Country Status: first case announced 31/03/2020 1 Government Actions:
The Freetown International Airport has been closed and all international passenger flights have been suspended
A 12-month state of Public Health emergency has been announced
The borders with Guinea and Liberia have been closed (as of 30 March 2020) and military has been deployed at land crossing points to ensure security and compliance
All learning institutions, entertainment centers, churches and mosques have been closed down
No social gatherings with >100 people are allowed, and cultural events have been prohibited
Impact on Miners 2,3
ASM and other rural business activities still continue, but at a smaller scale:
Following pre-emptive sensitization from health authorities and close monitoring by police officers in Dalakuru community, Koinadugu district, ASM mines have scaled down their workforce to a maximum of five people.
In Banakoro mine site, Kono district – which has not yet been targeted by the authorities – many people have left the mines following crashing mineral prices while others continue their activities in groups of five to 15 people.
Mineral trade still continues, but with the closing of borders with Guinea and Liberia – where the majority of gold and diamonds are smuggled to – local mineral prices have dropped significantly:
In Dalakuru, 1 gram of roughly 22 karat (around 91.6% pure) gold was typically sold for Le455,000 (46.80USD), and is now sold for Le375,000 (38.60USD)4; reflecting a sharp drop of 17.5%
In Banakoro, gold prices have dropped from about Le85,000 (43.70USD) to Le40,000 (20.60USD) per gram of 20 karat (around 85% pure) gold; practically halving miners’ incomes. Local diamond prices have made similar drops.
With fewer traders buying minerals, miners have no choice but to accept such prices from traders who currently store their acquired minerals at home or to follow suit and equally store their mineral wealth until the situation changes
Around Banakoro and Komaru, decreased mining revenues and increased youth unemployment are already increasing burglaries and other types of crime on a daily basis.
Some consulted miners need more buyers and investors so that they can continue their operations (for now) and receive fairer prices.
Miners who do not expect to be allowed to proceed with their operations once COVID-19 strikes Sierra Leone, expect to need emergency relief, and more generally, support in professionalizing their livelihoods
1Reuters, National Post Article citing President Julius Maada Bio speech March 31, 2020. 2 The listed observations from Dalakuru were obtained from Mohammed F Conteh, artisanal gold miner and trader in Dalakuru, Koinadugu district, Sierra Leone (pictured below on right).
3 The listed observations from Banakoro were obtained from Emmanuel Kpaka, Casablanca site group supervisor, Komaru, Kono district, Sierra Leone. 4 Using a conversation rate of 1 Leones = 0.00010 USD as of 30 March 2020