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Communicable diseases

Mining and metals operations are often located in or near to areas where communicable diseases are prevalent, meaning that industry can have a role to play in combatting them.

HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are all major causes of mortality and disability. It is estimated that some 38 million people live with HIV and in 2019 1.4 million died from TB (including 208 000 people with HIV) and there was about 229 million cases of malaria occurred around the world, causing the death of 409,000 people. In certain geographies, the mining and metals industry has particularly significant exposure to HIV/AIDS in its workforce.

Responsible companies recognise that their activities have the potential to impact the health of the communities in which they operate, and vice versa. They are also aware of their obligation to manage all potential impacts of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria effectively. Many mining companies, including several ICMM members, are already making significant progress in addressing HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the workplace.

Beyond being the right thing to do in societal terms, a proactive approach to the management of these communicable diseases can have a positive impact on the financial performance of the company too. In fact, extensive quantitative and qualitative data suggest that companies working to address HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the workplace experience a variety of direct and indirect benefits.

These benefits include:

  • Lower rates of employee turnover.
  • Reduced employer liability.
  • Improved profitability due to increased productivity and decreased costs of health care.
  • Workforce diversity reflecting a range of age groups, sexes, talents and skills.
  • Improved employee morale.
  • Access to international funding for mine development.
  • Company reputation and secured social licence to operate.

Strengthening operational capacity

ICMM promotes sharing of good practice across the sector to maximise the benefits of interventions to society. ICMM’s Good Practice Guidance on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria outlines and advocates an integrated approach to the three diseases, and is aligned with leading practice from international bodies, other industry sectors and ICMM members.

Mining and metals operations can also be affected by other infectious diseases, eg the 2014 outbreak of Ebola (predominantly in Western Africa), the outbreak of Zika in multiple regions in 2015 and 2016 and the Covid-19 global pandemic, all have an impact on the safety of personnel and their families travelling in and out of vulnerable areas.

ICMM’s COVID-19 framework is a practical tool for mining and other companies to assess their own activities through examples, case-studies and resources. It has been developed with the aim of encouraging learning and thinking about mining’s collective role in supporting communities through the immediate and long-term phases of Covid-19.

Three key areas for action are identified in the Framework. These are lives (health and safety), livelihoods (jobs and income) and learning (education and skills). Through these lenses, companies can identify practical actions to take across their core business activities, community investment programmes and policy engagement, that support community rebuilding and resilience.

ICMM continues to monitor how we can best support the mining and metals industry in combatting these and other infectious diseases.