The coronavirus has presented Zambia with several immediate and foreseeable health-related and economic challenges, but North-Western Province’s largest mines have wasted no time in responding. Both Barrick Lumwana and First Quantum Minerals (‘FQM Zambia’) have pledged significant funds and resources for treatment and prevention of the virus in workplaces and communities surrounding their mining operations, which Mining For Zambia reported back in April. 

We recently followed up on the progress that the two miners have made in readying their districts along with North-Western Province, and the country at large for effective COVID-19 treatment and the minimising of the virus’ spread. Take a look at what they’ve been working on, in pictures.  

Getting information to the people

FQM Zambia began COVID-19 education and sensitisation programs as soon as there was reason to believe that cases could reach the country from China. Weighing up the inherent risks, the company began carrying out community sensitisation in the areas around Solwezi and Kalumbila as early as March this year. 

Reaching communities through roadshows

Roadshows are one way that FQM Zambia is extending its educational interventions far beyond its mining sites. “We’ve committed to doing education programs outside of the official mine-supported areas, such as in communities that we’ve consistently ‘adopted’ in Kalumbila and Kansanshi,” says Gertrude Musunka, Health Programs and Projects Advisor for Kansanshi Mining Plc and Kalumbila Minerals Limited (‘FQM Zambia’).

Ensuring that people can access information in their mother tongue is central to every successful public health campaign, and multilingual Information Education Communication (IEC) materials continue to be distributed in the community at large.

Empowering local leaders

Barrick Lumwana has stepped in to supplement the efforts of Kalumbila District’s COVID-19 Preparedness Committee by printing and distributing an increased number of awareness brochures in the local Kaonde language. Here, Barrick Lumwana staff members, James Mashimango and Aubrey Musonda, share information on COVID-19 prevention with Sub-Chief Mukulumoya, during a visit to distribute newly-printed awareness brochures in Kaonde.

Solwezi’s very own purpose-built isolation centre

On 6 May, FQM Zambia’s John Gladston handed over a dedicated COVID-19 isolation facility to Provincial Minister Hon. Nathaniel Mubukwani, for which part of the Solwezi School of Nursing was renovated, at a cost of US$ 85,300. 

Substantial investment for a substantial health risk

The isolation facility has been stocked with beds for an Intensive Care Unit, an assortment of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical equipment, surgical masks and gloves, refrigerators, blankets, and linen, worth an additional US$ 120,000.

More help is on the way

Musunka is pictured above providing Provincial Minister Hon. Nathaniel Mubukwani with details of the company’s donations for COVID-19 treatment and prevention, including PPE, drip stands, and other equipment.

“There is more COVID-19 testing equipment to be handed over to the government by Kansanshi,” said Gladston at the handover. This will bring the total spend to more than US$ 400,000 (approximately K7.3 million), which is far beyond the US$ 120,000 that the company initially pledged towards the fight against COVID-19.

Quarantine facilities for the future

Barrick Lumwana has been hard at work responding to a call from local government to complete the construction of a planned maternity facility at Nkulumazhiba Rural Health Centre, enabling it to temporarily serve as the Nkulumazhiba COVID-19 Quarantine Centre. The ongoing work is being undertaken by Barrick Lumwana through local contractor Moratom, and involves connecting the facility to the national power grid and borehole water. Watch this space!

Fulfilling pledges

On 26 May, Barrick Lumwana handed over a second batch of COVID-19 medical supplies to the North-Western Provincial & District Administration, during an outdoor event led by Lumwana Mining Company’s General Manager, Paul Gillot (second from far right). The consignment of goods was received by the provincial Permanent Secretary Willies Manjimela (far right) on behalf of the Provincial Minister.

Barrick Lumwana’s pledge of US$ 530,000 (approximately K9.6 million) towards containing COVID-19 was first made on 7 April by Barrick Gold Corporation’s country manager for Zambia, Nathan Chishimba. “As a committed partner to Zambia, we would like to make a contribution to the government’s fight against the pandemic,” Chishimba announced. Medical supplies and equipment to the value of US$ 340,000 have been allocated at the national level, US$ 100,000 to North-Western province, and US$ 90,000 for Kalumbila district.

Permanent Secretary Willies Manjimela received the donation with great appreciation, saying that it would be “treasured by all generations to come.”

Miners become medics

Both Barrick Lumwana and FQM Zambia have adopted robust health intervention strategies to keep employees safe and healthy. Daily temperature monitoring is ‘the new normal’ at Lumwana Copper Mine and at FQM’s Kansanshi and Kalumbila mines. Above, a FQM Zambia healthcare worker provides health screening at the mine’s entrance, in order to identify potential health risks such as malaria, to mitigate the risk of COVID-19-malaria comorbidity. 

“We’re taking a very holistic, proactive approach to all of this,” said Musunka, expressing a sentiment that was echoed by Chishimba. “We realised that it didn’t make sense for us to only roll out measures at the mine and at the district level,” said Barrick’s country manager. “We also had to look at COVID-19 prevention and awareness at the provincial and national level.”

Closely collaborating with Zambia’s Ministry of Health has been central to North-Western Province’s largest mining companies’ extraordinary commitment to mitigating the pandemic’s damage. At a time when COVID-19 has left no industry untouched, the swift action that these two miners have taken to ensure the province’s epidemic preparedness is going a long way towards supporting the government’s own efforts.

See also: Miners become medics