COVID-19 Response Strategy
There are several interconnected elements that influence an organizations strategy for developing their COVID-19 response.
COVID-19 has impacted the operations of mining companies and NGOs in different ways.
Suspension of operations. Many organizations have shut operations or placed them on care and maintenance in order to promote social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19.
Within both the NGO and mining sector there is a focus on ending all activities that require gathering or movement of people, for example open pit and underground mining, processing (e.g. milling, leaching etc.), camp facilities like cafeterias and gyms, in-office work, in-person training and education programs, in-person provision of services (e.g. health care, legal etc.), and transportation of goods and services. The decision to shut operations was/is made based on:
Vulnerability of employees and community based on elements described above;
Likelihood operations would increase the spread of COVID-19; and
Cashflow and access to resources to maintain activities.
Maintaining operations. Some organizations have found ways to maintain operations because they are considered essential. For example, mining operations that support electricity services; essential construction and development programs such as food delivery, shelter and medical services. Others have maintained operations because the government and/or community believe the economic and social impact of suspending operations would have undue social impacts. Still other organizations have maintained operations, or not shut operations entirely because they want to be prepared to be part of the regional response and recovery from COVID-19. Many organizations have moved online. This is more appropriate and relevant for office work and in regions where households have ready access to the internet and resources to support work-from-home scenarios.
The Tahltan Nation and Newcrest mining, for instance, decided together to keep the Red Chris JV Mine in British Colombia operational (with changes to schedule, health assessments etc.).
See Alternative Work Arrangements in the Planning section for more information.
Adapting operations. A number of NGOs have integrated COVID-19 response programming into their current programs.
UNICEF's global response has adapted quickly to include several key elements, including; strengthening risk communication and community engagement; providing critical medical and WASH supplies and improving; supporting continued access to essential health care services for women, children and vulnerable communities, including case management; supporting access to continuous education, social protection, child protection and GBV services disrupted by the pandemic; data collection and analysis of secondary impacts on children and women. Full details can be found on the UNICEF Novel COVID-19 Response website.
Amref Health Africa has also shifted programming to train community health workers about COVID-19 prevention. They have developed videos and other resources that are appropriate for the communities in East Africa where they operate, including densely populated communities with limited access to water and wash stations.
Right to Play Community Mentors have limited in person contact and are creating and distributing “PLAY Packs” to families to keep playing to learn happening in homes. These packs look different across PLAY partners, and have included: art activities (e.g. edible play-doh recipes), cultural activities (e.g. medicine pouch making, drum-making), science education (e.g. gardening and egg drop contests supplies), and healthy snacks.
The mining companies and NGOs surveyed have completed, or are developing a COVID-19 Response Plan. These plans are not necessarily presented as a written long form plan because they are responsive and adapting so quickly. Many plans include detailed check lists and requirements for the organization as a whole as well as each office / site.
How are they developed?
Most mining companies and larger NGOs have established Crisis Management Protocols, Emergency Response Plans and Business Continuity Plans that set the foundation for their COVID-19 Plan. Some organizations worked with insurance brokers or other emergency response consultants to develop their plan.
Tasks forces. Most organizations used a cross-functional task force with representatives from head office as well as in-country to develop their plan. The task force generally includes representatives from each department. The task force typically reports to a person/people on the senior executive team, who is responsible for sharing information between the executive and board and task force. For example, the COVID-19 taskforce at Kinross reports to the Chief Technology Officer, who is on the senior leadership team. Some organizations, such as Plan Canada, have sub-task forces focused on specific issues (e.g. program activities, communications, logistics fundraising). The task force holds regular meetings to provide updates on implementations and make required changes to the plan. Some organizations have daily briefings at a corporate / head office level and meet with sites / country offices every 3-4 days.
What do they include?
Most organizations have an organization-wide plan and requirements as well as a specific plan for each country office or site. Response plans include the following information:
Expected phases and possible timeline of impacts and organizations responses. Most organizations have identified an early rapid response phase, followed by phases focused on strategic planning, engagement and communication; implementation and response; recovery and rebuilding. Separating into these phases allows for a focused response as well as longer term planning. Plan Canada’s strategy, for example includes 4 phases - Assess, Stabilize, Recover, and Reimagine. These timelines will differ between countries as the spread of COVID-19 is controlled in some countries and increases in others.
Roles and responsibilities. Clear roles and responsibilities are included in the plans, including department specific responsibilities; internal and external communications; implementation and monitoring. Some plans have been clear to differentiate rapid response teams from long term planners. This is especially relevant in regions where there are quarantine orders and planning needs to be done for when those orders are lifted.
Operations Planning. These are decisions related to suspending or adapting operations. This includes corporate wide bans on travel, events, and non-essential in-office work. It also includes decisions to suspend operations for specific sites or programs. Some mining companies include plans to maintain sites in a state of readiness to restart. Some NGOs have re-directed resources for in-person training programs to developing communications and educational materials. For example, the Canadian Bar Association International Initiatives is adjusting workplans of the project activities to concentrate on the production of public legal education materials (desk work and working with designers and printers), law reform and legal aid (provision of Lawyers to individual cases).
Alternative work arrangements and provisions for remote work. This includes scheduling changes to limit face-to face interactions and family care requirements (e.g. caring for a sick family member, child care). Kinross has allowed flexible work arrangements to help employees manage family commitments, and is providing access to Human Resources specialists to ensure employees’ needs are being met. UNICEF Canada is also enabling all employees to work flexibly to accommodate childcare needs and providing mental and parental support resources to employees. Alternative work arrangements also include providing access to technological resources (e.g. laptops, internet and network access, conference calls) and online security protocols. One organization has allowed employees to expense $500 to purchase equipment to establish a home office.
Employee health assessments and medical preparedness. This includes plans for employee health assessments and screening and is especially relevant for mining operations and development programming that requires community visits. Some organizations have updated their emergency medical preparedness plans to be more focused on the unique issues presented by COVID-19. This includes site / office outbreak plans including isolation plans and on-site isolation facilities.
Internal and external communications plan. This includes daily webinars for employees, emails, websites press release, and feedback mechanisms for internal and external stakeholders. Find more in the Communication and Information Sharing section.
Engagement and collaboration plans with eternal stakeholders. This includes mapping and identifying key external stakeholder groups and plans for virtual engagement where possible. Find more in the Engagement and Collaboration sections
Supply chain contingency plans. COVID-19 has impacted economic systems and supply chains which will impact organizations access to goods and services for their operations as well as their response to COVID-19. Many organizations are analyzing their supply chains to determine what goods and services are at risk of being disrupted. Kinross is working with its critical suppliers to minimize potential supply chain disruptions. Sites and regions continue to review all key consumables and critical item supply chains in order to assess potential disruptions, and to identify mitigating actions, including alternative sources of supply. The company is implementing contingency and response plans at the global level and working to increase stock levels of critical items above normal inventory levels where possible.
Cash flow planning and financial outlooks. Changes to operations, supply chains, commodity prices, product demand and donor priorities will have both short- and long-term impacts. Many Canadian based NGOs that operate globally have expressed concern that redirecting government and corporate funding to the domestic responses will result in fewer resources to respond in other countries, which will arguably be hard hit by COVID-19.
Most organizations have established engagement practices with mining impacted communities. However, many dialogue mechanisms rely on in person connections (e.g. community meetings, round tables, one-on-one meetings, participation in cultural events). Both mining companies and NGOs are looking for innovative ways to engage with community stakeholders while respecting physical distances and quarantine requirements. Where communities have access to social media, Facebook and What’s Ap have become central tools for both sharing information and driving discussion and dialogue with the community. Many companies and NGOs have provided specific email addresses on their websites for communities looking to find information about COVID-19 or engage.
Communication and Information Sharing
Communication and information sharing are the foundation for an effective collaborative response. Communications from NGOs and mining companies should be targeted at employees, communities, peers, government leaders and health authorities. Good communication is clear, accessible, consistent and appropriate for the audience.
Organizations have focused communication on several categories:
COVID-19 Facts. Confirmed information the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 from reliable resources such as the WHO and Government of Canada.
Regional Data. Data related to confirmed and presumed cases and models of various scenarios.
Organizations Response Plan. Including prevention measures and impacts to operations and regular services.
In early April, there were no clear examples of respondents feeding into a public communication hub. Some organizations have daily virtual updates for employees, as well as relevant external stakeholders, using Zoom or conference calls. Some organizations have posted their plans publicly to their website. Many organizations have identified examples or strategies to role out a communication plan with community stakeholders that is appropriate for the context, including targeted communications at food access points (e.g. grocery stores and markets) and sanitization points and posting to widely used Facebook or What’s Ap Groups.
A few organizations have made messaging and communications related to COVID-19 central to their response plans.
UNICEF Canada is equipping partners with tools for governments, teachers, parents, teenagers, children. These tools are publicly available on their website.
The Artisanal Gold Council is also raising awareness about the possible direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on the ASGM sector and is monitoring the situation through its local networks. The information is published regularly on their website.