COVID-19 Impact on ASM News about how COVID-19 is affecting artisanal and small scale mining in the world

Update 2: Impacts of COVID-19 on ASM: Insights from the ground

Kenya: ASM-dependent communities hard hit by mine closures and decreased local gold prices

Country Overview
ASM Workforce: 140,000 miners, including appr. 40,000 ASGM miners
COVID-19 Country Status
: 42 Covid-19 cases total (as of 29/03/2020)1
Government Actions
:

  • Suspension of all international passenger flights to Kenya (into effect as of 25 March)
  • National Curfew Order prohibiting non-essential movements between 7pm and 5am (as of 27 March)
  • Schools and universities are closed down
  • Economic measures: various forms of tax relief (including income tax, corporate tax, turnover tax and VAT) and pay cuts for the President and other members of the executive
  • People are encouraged to work from home
  • No social gatherings with >15 people are allowed and social distancing is mandatory
  • National Government has extended to the County Governments a direct order to shut down all ‘non-essential businesses’, including mining operations

Impact on Miners and their communities
Impacts vary between communities and counties, but overall, they are dramatic

Artisanal mine site in Mikei, Migori
Photography by Jorden de Haan, Pact

Mikei community, Migori county 2

  • All gold mines have shut down.
  • The economic activities fueled by gold mining – such as food sales, small shops and restaurants – have largely halted, as people no longer have cash to pay for food, products and services. Some people have started farming, but not many.
  • As a result of the travel ban, gold trade has decreased and the local price received for one gram of gold has decreased from Ksh 4,200 (around 42 USD) to Ksh 3,500 (around 33 USD). Moreover, mercury supply has decreased and its price has increased.

Lolgorian community, Narok county 3

  • Virtually all gold mines have shut down, depriving around 3,000 people of their direct livelihood.
  • Some miners are defying the mine closure order, because according to them, “if I don’t mine, I don’t eat”; “you are sending us home to die”; and “everyone [here] depends on mining”.
  • The community-led and foreign-supported non-for profit Lolgorian Farmers of Gold has written a letter to the government to plea for being be allowed to continue mining operations while implementing the necessary measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Kakamega county 4

  • While major mines have shut down, smaller mines (<15 people) are still operating.
  • Due to the curfew, miners can no longer work 24 hours per day and production has dropped significantly, causing economic hardship and raising fears of rising crime rates
  • Gold trade is disturbed and local gold prices have dropped in a similar way to Migori.

Miners’ needs

  • Consulted miners want ASM to be exempted from forced closure, as it is in fact an essential business for their communities’ livelihoods
  • Supporting measures such as protective equipment (e.g. masks, goggles, hand sanitation gel) and support in formalization, in order to enable ASM activity to continue in a responsible manner under the supervision of miners’ organizations maintaining social distancing and other policies
  • (If mines are still shut down): Emergency relief in terms of food and cash
  • Awareness raising about COVID-19 in ASM communities

References

1John Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Center. Accessed March 29, 2020
2
Information obtained from George Kisekwa, member and Training Coordinator of Migori County Artisanal (MICA) Miners Cooperative Society Ltd.
3
Information obtained from Matt Hales, Co-founder of FARMERS OF GOLD – LOLGORIAN, Kenya, & USA. Quotes provided by Matt Hales, citing the words of local gold miners in his community.
4 Information obtained from ASGM Chair of Kakamega on March 29, 2020

Democratic Republic of Congo: Artisanal Mining Cooperative taking action
An artisanal mining cooperative in DRC relies on non-contact thermometers to identify potential COVID-19 cases amongst their workforce before allowing site access. Members of the cooperative have been sensitized on public health risks and basic precautions, like hand washing, since late February, while project partners ensured access to sanitary facilities and clean water. The decision was recently made to temporarily suspend operations after allowing the miners to evacuate their mineral stocks for sale one last time.
Artisanal Gold Council: Call to Action

Artisanal Gold Council (AGC) is reaching out to all stakeholders involved with, and focused on improving, the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector to consider taking six key actions to (1) reduce the impact of COVID-19 on ASGM and other rural communities; (2) counteract the potentially devastating effects of COVID-19 on livelihoods by ensuring that current ASGM improvement projects continue unabated; and (3) that efforts to create a more profitable, more organized, and safer ASGM sector are accelerated in the nearest future to put the ASGM community in a better state of preparedness for other potential shocks. Learn more and join the call to action at https://www.artisanalgold.org/covid-19-call-to-action/

Article Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo Gold Political, Due Diligence, Traceability, and Transparency, Formalization, Governance, Supply Chains, Economic, Access to Markets, Finance, Social, Employment, Health and Safety, Labor and Working Conditions, Livelihoods, COVID-19

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