Ebola Outbreak Should Spur Mining Companies to Improve Sustainability

Posted by on August 22, 2014 in Green

14440817981_eb676a8850The deadliest outbreak in the history of Ebola virus in West Africa has already claimed more than 900 lives. Governments across the world have stepped up surveillance and quarantine measures. Global businesses with mining activities in West Africa are evaluating the potential impact on their ability to sustain operations while also safeguarding their employees and their families against the outbreak, which is spreading faster than anyone anticipated.

Ebola-affected West African countries such as Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have large untapped deposits of iron ore, bauxite, gold, diamonds and other commodities. West Africa represents a major global mining opportunity that is vital to the economy of the region as well as various industries around the world. However, most of these mines are located in areas that are impacted by the Ebola virus. This has led to a critical economic and humanitarian situation for which the mining companies were not adequately prepared.

In the wake of this ongoing crisis, it is important for global mining businesses operating out of West Africa to step up investments in sustainability and set up world-class systems to deal with risks, including potential health crises, which are a key factor to consider in Africa. For instance, community outreach programs for prevention and treatment of widespread diseases such as malaria represent a critical need in Africa.

The looming global health threat caused by the Ebola outbreak demonstrates that mining companies have a crucial role to play for the sake of their workers and other stakeholders in the region. This is not just with regard to the current crisis, but also for their sustainable future in West Africa. There is no way that a single company can effectively manage a serious health crisis by itself. Therefore, the need of the hour is to build coherent and cooperative systems involving all major companies, local health organizations and governments.

Agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as international governments would be willing to support funding if the companies come forward to assist with plans for prevention, containment and treatment in the event of such crises. The involvement of companies is vital because they have the necessary networks, supply chains and distribution systems along with professional project management capabilities already in place. They also have the experience to mobilize operations quickly and negotiate through potential bureaucratic bottlenecks in the region.

In the West African mining business, there is a dire need to work beyond the current outbreak itself and promote an environment of sustainability and inclusive growth. Health and safety of the communities is going to be an integral part of this process.

Source: Think Advisor

Image Credit: Flickr via NIAID

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