At this writing, coronavirus/COVID-19 has killed more than 120,000 people around the world and sickened almost 2 million others. If there is any good news, the pandemic has waned in China, where it all started. The tally there is more than 82,000 cases with more than 3,300 deaths.
In Asia Miner’s markets, Australia has more than 6,000 cases and 60 deaths; Indonesia has about 4,800 cases and 250 deaths; Thailand has logged more than 2,600 cases, but only 41 deaths; while in Malaysia, there have been more than 5,000 cases and 80 deaths. Phillipines stands at 5,000 cases and 330 deaths.
Extreme preventative measures have made New Zealand a model of containment, with 1,300 cases and only nine deaths being reported.
It was good to see messages of support from mining companies all over the region as this pandemic has grown larger and bolder.
Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques said, “COVID-19 is a human tragedy and we all have to play our part as the pandemic spreads. Rio Tinto’s first priority remains the health and safety of all of our employees and communities.”
In a statement, OZ Minerals stated that, “We strictly enforce and promote all Australian state and federal, and Brazilian government health and disease control measures around isolation, international and domestic travel, and the advice regarding hygiene and social distancing.”
Barrick said it has counselled employees about the symptoms of the virus and the risk of contracting the infection. Access to each site across the group is strictly controlled and visitors, employees and contractors are being routinely screened. Additionally, the company has put emergency medical procedures and facilities in place.
Industry shows have also taken a hit. Indonesia Miner 2020 has been postponed until July and Geo Connect Asia has been cancelled, but will return on 24-25 March in 2021.
While business as usual has now become nothing even close to usual, many companies, both on the manufacturing side and production side are grappling with the economic fallout. Mining is an essential industry, and while that is a positive, and work goes on, a decline in upstream markets will mean reduced demand for resources, at least in the short term.
According to the International Monetary Fund, “Disruptions caused by the virus are starting to ripple through emerging markets. After showing little movement early in the year, the latest indices from purchasing manager surveys (PMIs) are pointing to sharp slowdowns in manufacturing output in many countries, reflecting drops in external demand and growing expectations of declining domestic demand.”
On a positive note, China is seeing a modest improvement in its PMI after sharp declines early in the year. The conundrum is, will the rest of the world follow suit, and will we begin to see signs of an economic turnaround sooner rather than later?
Mark S. Kuhar, editor
*Article published in the April-June 2020 issue of The Asia Miner