In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic took an unprecedented toll on business and socio-economic systems across the globe. This forced businesses to take extraordinary measures to protect the health of people, and contribute to efforts to protect communities and cushion the economic impact of the pandemic. Given the interconnectedness between employees and communities, the measures we took were focused on both stakeholder groups.
We put various prevention and risk management protocols in place, applying lessons learned during the Ebola outbreak in Guinea in 2014, and our ongoing programmes that manage malaria across our Continental Africa operations.
In tackling the pandemic, clear and consistent communication and cooperation within the Company and with a range of external stakeholders, was fundamental in navigating through the pandemic and the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape it created.
It became quickly apparent how vital it was to ensure close and ongoing cooperation between health ministries, local government departments, community leadership and our own site management and health teams.
The mechanisms and effectiveness of this collaboration has been one of the more positive outcomes of the pandemic that we will work to make a feature of our business in the years ahead to better integrate broad health risk management, into the overall business. Over time this will contribute to productivity and our social licence to operate.
The pandemic has also further embedded our approach to health risk management into our business activities. This discipline has, in recent years, expanded to consider a range of complex social determinants of health in the context of prevailing social, economic and healthcare systems of our host countries. Some occupational and non-occupational health impacts have long latency periods while others may arise in an acute way, as in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to be more proactive in anticipating both short and long-term health risks, we have identified and introduced a suite of predictive leading indicators to help us continuously identify and assess potential problem areas and address them timely, in line with our quarterly health risk updates. The rapid evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the manifold risks it presented, required closer monitoring and quicker internal reporting.
This pandemic also elevated other associated risks like the importance of optimising the focus on mental health, minimising non-communicable diseases associated with lifestyle and the need for systematic contribution to strengthening healthcare systems, local skills development and overall community development in our operating jurisdictions.
A multidisciplinary committee was established at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak to implement a crisis management plan and steer the business through the pandemic. The centrepiece of this strategy was our Five-Phase preparedness and response plan based on lessons learned during the Ebola outbreak, with a clear trigger and alert response plan and associated risk monitoring system. We continue to monitor alignment and compliance with national regulations and guidelines.
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Supporting employees and communities in Brazil
Making sure work environments were safe for employees in the face of COVID-19, was just one aspect of AngloGold Ashanti’s response to the pandemic. This video outlines the humanitarian support provided to hospitals and social partners in an effort to fight COVID-19.
We also developed protocols and guidance documents that were adjusted as the pandemic evolved to ensure timely mitigation measures were put in place. A risk matrix and reporting dashboard is reviewed on a weekly basis and covers travel management, supply chain, human resources and information management as well as government and community collaboration. Some of the various multidisciplinary controls included COVID-19 protocols to closely monitor chronic diseases and manage them, screening employees on their return to the workplace and referring suspected cases for testing and further management. Daily temperature and symptom screening on access to the workplace continues as we closely monitor and re-enforce a series of interventions around education and awareness; personal hygiene and disinfection of equipment, working environments and infrastructure; social distancing and prohibition of gatherings; remote work arrangements; and wearing of masks, among others.
Systems were also put in place to test and treat those with COVID-19 and to assist with isolation and quarantine measures as soon as possible. Given some limitations in local health systems, we also augmented testing capacity on and off the mine sites, supplemented by strengthened infrastructure support for hospitalisation, isolation and quarantine. AngloGold Ashanti also extended controls to dependents and communities. This is not only the right thing to do, but also a recognition that our business exists as part of its host communities.
Collaboration and partnerships to address the outbreak at local, industry and national level were key pillars of our strategy to control and manage the pandemic. We provided food, PPE, medical supplies and equipment, personal and environmental hygiene facilities and services, infrastructure support, remote mental health and medical services, as well as donations at various levels of governments. Education and awareness of both our workforce and communities remains critical to our prevention approach. We communicated intensively with stakeholders with respect to the new operating parameters, in line with our own COVID-19 protocols and those laid out in the applicable jurisdictions. We continuously adjusted communication campaigns to address emerging themes like prevention through responsible behaviours, testing, gender-based violence, and mental health, amongst others.
As at end of January 2021 AngloGold Ashanti had conducted more than 40,000 COVID-19 tests and our employees has seen a recovery rate of more than 92%. About 80% of the confirmed cases to that point displayed no symptoms.
Related case study:
COVID-19 education campaign
In partnership with a communications agency, we developed a collection of social-media friendly material in an easily accessible format that was distributed at our operations and in communities and schools.
Combined with other preventive measures, vaccines are critical in the control of the pandemic. With 22 candidate vaccines already in advanced trials in early 2021 and about nine already approved for emergency use in several countries globally, the race to develop and secure safe and effective vaccines by various governments and stakeholders has been unprecedented. This has resulted in stark mismatches in vaccine demand and available doses as well as ‘vaccine nationalism’, especially in the more developed and well-resourced countries. To this effect, manufacturers of currently approved vaccines have committed to sell vaccine only to governments through the United Nations- and GAVI-led COVAX facility as well as individual bilateral country agreements. (GAVI, a vaccine alliance formed in 2000, is an international organisation created to improve access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries). Countries are at varying level of preparedness, planning and execution of vaccine programmes and given several challenges, it will be a long time before the desired herd immunity is attained in countries and at global level.
AngloGold Ashanti continues to support and explore opportunities for partnerships and collaboration with national authorities and South Africa – Mponeng contribute to efforts towards equitable access to safe, good quality and approved vaccines. Given the delays in the vaccine roll-out efforts, current controls are being re-enforced and maintained. These are growing in importance as social and travel restrictions are relaxed, compounded by growing COVID-19 fatigue as well as emerging variants from virus mutations. The ICMM, of which we are a member, Business Fights Poverty and The Partnering Initiative, in consultation with the Harvard Kennedy School, introduced its ‘Building Forward Better Framework’ during 2020. It aims to provide tools to boost cooperation and presents possible routes to achieving increased resilience post COVID-19. The ICMM sees the framework’s focus as learning and thinking about mining’s role in supporting communities through the immediate and long-term phases of COVID-19. It provides practical tools and allows companies to assess their own activities through examples. Key areas of action are lives (health and safety), livelihoods (jobs and income) and learning (education and skills). With respect to research around vaccines and anti-virals we continuously see opportunities to use global cooperative frameworks, so there is a more coordinated – and effective – global response to such events in the future.
AngloGold Ashanti implemented a host of initiatives on our mine sites and in the surrounding communities – including awareness and personal hygiene campaigns.
COMMUNITY AND HUMANITARIAN WORK UNDERTAKEN
- Two hospitals made available for exclusive use by government; direct contributions to state healthcare institutions, to aid frontline effort;
- Pledged $1m to Solidarity Response Fund – for rapid, targeted support of healthcare system and humanitarian support to vulnerable communities;
- Paid employee salaries/ benefits during shutdown;
- Partnership with Sasol and Imperial to provide bulk sanitiser to public hospitals.
- Manufacturing hand sanitiser for public use;
- Donation to President’s COVID-19 Trust Fund;
- AngloGold Ashanti Health Foundation supporting Ashanti Regional Health Directorate, Obuasi Municipal and District Assemblies and the Municipal Health Directorate;
- AngloGold Ashanti Malaria team, helping disinfect health centres in Obuasi Municipality and District.
- Invested in various health projects in Geita region which will facilitate the efforts to fight the disease;
- Donation of $200,000 to the Tanzanian government;
- Donation of ten 1,000 litres water tanks for public handwashing campaigns;
- Construction of COVID-19 Isolation centre;
- Donations of essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Donated masks, thermometers and gloves to Siguiri authorities to fight against COVID-19;
- Broadcast information programme using local radio station to raise awareness on preventative measures;
- Donations of $200 000 to the Government Relief fund;
- Donated hand washing tanks, sanitary kits and support to local health centers.
- $280,000 donated to hospitals in the Minas Gerais and Goiás states;
- COVID-19 awareness campaign, educating employees and communities about the virus and providing ways to protect themselves and loved ones;
- Paid employee salaries and benefits during operational shutdown;
- Supplied 28 respirators to hospitals and health units in Minas Gerais and Goiás;
- Distribution of food parcels, PPE and sanitisers to communities by employees.
- Donations to the province of Santa Cruz – these included a range of hospital resources including disposable coveralls, transparent glasses, latex gloves and breathing units;
- Supplied ingredients for hand sanitiser to the Puerto San Julián police department and disposable coveralls to the fire department;
- Paid employee salaries and benefits during operational shutdown.
- Donation of $500,000 to National Health Ministry for COVID-19 detection reagents kits.
- Launched the “A Purpose for Life” campaign to protect the health and well-being of the people as well as the delivery of food parcels and medical equipment including laser thermometers;
- Donated $15,280 to food banks in Bogota and Medellin, to help people who are unable to work during the quarantine period;
- Psycho-social support to host community members of Jerico;
- “Face Masks for Life” campaign to support the Southwest Region with 47,000 re-usable face masks.
- Involved in the COVID-19 Community Support Initiative established by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy in Western Australia;
- Contributed $90,000 to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Foodbank and Lifeline to assist COVID-19 patients in remote and regional WA, as well as support mental health and provide essential supplies to vulnerable community members;
- Sourced hand sanitiser stations, soap, and community hand washing machines in Laverton and Kalgoorlie;
- Awareness campaigns and regular contact with key stakeholders;
- Introduced an expanded e-mentoring Teach Learn Grow programme for one-on-one support to primary school students.