JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Mining companies are taking firm steps to help combat the scourge of malaria, which affects 3.3-billion people worldwide and kills a child every 30 seconds.
International Council for Mining and Metals (ICMM) health, safety and product stewardship director John Atherton reports that:
- diversified mining company Glencore is reducing malaria risk in communities across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where 51% of all malaria occurs;
- gold mining company Anglo Gold Ashanti is shielding 1.2-million-plus people from malaria in Ghana by treating a million buildings; and
- South32’s Mozal Aluminium Smelter team is minimising malaria risk among employees and contractors in Mozambique by applying larvicides to standing water, a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
“Tackling this illness will have far-reaching consequences not just in the DRC, Ghana and Mozambique, but will increase prospects in the entire region,” Atherton states in an article sent to Mining Weekly Online.
Up to 25% of household income in Africa is lost to the life-threatening mosquito-borne blood disease, which is responsible for the deaths of more than 445 000 a year.
“Whole countries’ economies and development can suffer because of malaria,” Atherton states, while drawing attention to the propensity of mining and metals operations to be located in areas where malaria, HIV/Aids and TB are prevalent.
Malaria is said to put the single greatest damper on the African economy, to the point where every $1 invested in fighting malaria reportedly improves the gross domestic product of the continent by $12.
While sub-Saharan Africa hosts 90% of all malaria cases, Atherton notes that high levels of illegal mining in Colombia have resulted in a 30% increase in malaria cases in the South American country in the space of three years.
He points to ICMM member companies being “demonstrably ready and willing” to play their part to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing at all ages.
Meanwhile, 75% of companies in Africa report a negative impact on business from malaria. After the DRC town of Kolwezi, situated near Glencore’s Katanga mine, suffered an alarming increase in malaria between 2012 and 2015, the mining company's strategy of holistic residual spraying, larvae control and education programmes played a massive role in reducing the burden of malaria in the area, resulting in malaria cases plummeting by 88% in the following two years.
In Ghana, AngloGold Ashanti helped to slash the number of new malaria cases seen by a local hospital from 7 000 a month in 2005 to under 200 a month in 2017, by focusing on local, indoor residual spraying of mosquito-prone sites.
South32 has been able to report a 58% reduction in three years of on-site malaria cases around Mozal.
All three are members of the ICMM, which is an association of 27 mining and metals companies that share a common goal of strengthening the environmental and social performance of the mining industry.