Mining in the time of coronavirus

While attending the Conexpo trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, we witnessed the introduction of increasingly strict measures to contain the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, including US President Donald Trump announcing travel restrictions from Europe to the US
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The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), which organises Conexpo, decided to close the 2020 show one day early on March 13

Nia Kajastie in Las Vegas, Nevada, US

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The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), which organises Conexpo, even decided to close the show one day early on March 13. It said it made the decision based on conversations with key exhibitors, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the office of the Nevada Governor.

It was also recently announced that an attendee at another industry event, PDAC 2020 that took place in Toronto, Canada, on March 1-4, tested positive for the disease. The mining conference was attended by Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, who is currently self-isolating, together with his wife. This, however, is due to Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau showing symptoms rather than the PM himself.

Public Health Sudbury and Districts medical officer of health Dr Penny Sutcliffe said on March 11: "I am confirming that based on our investigations so far, the individual was not infectious while attending the PDAC 2020 conference March 2 and 3 in Toronto.

"Our working hypothesis at this time is that this individual was exposed to COVID-19 while at the conference, and therefore we are advising those who attended the conference to monitor for symptoms for 14 days since leaving this event."

Canadian mining company Kinross Gold has also shut its Toronto office after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. The miner said the individual in question, who did not attend the PDAC event, was in self-quarantine and doing well.

With further mining events on the horizon, including CIM in Vancouver in early May, it will be interesting to see what the industry response will be.

Beyond the events circuit, the wider mining industry is also bracing for the full effect of the pandemic to hit its operations and supply chains.

Among others, Barrick is increasing its inventory of key commodities to above the normal level.

At Conexpo, several mining equipment suppliers, including Caterpillar and Metso, stressed that they hadn't witnessed significant disruptions to date. Furthermore, some of their manufacturing facilities in China are back up and running again.

Nonetheless, the outbreak has stirred up fears of a global recession, as financial markets plunged in response to the uncertainty caused by the disease.

Many countries are taking drastic measures to curb further spread of the virus, with universities, schools and businesses closing down, and large events being cancelled.

At the time of writing this comment, the situation around the world keeps changing at a rapid pace, so it's hard to predict what will happen even in the next week. But while the economic ramifications are disconcerting, it is still the human side of the tragedy at the centre of this pandemic that we should focus on.

UPDATE: The CIM Convention and Exhibition 2020, scheduled to take place May 3-6, has now been cancelled.