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COVID takes 66% of silver output offline

Government lockdown takes toll on precious metal production North of 60 Mining News – May 1, 2020

Series: COVID-19 coverage | Story 35

Global metal production has been severely disrupted due to government mandated suspension of mining operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to figures released by GlobalData, 32 countries have passed partial or complete lockdown orders that by April 3 had led to the temporary suspension of activities at over 1,600 mines.

Silver is the hardest hit by global government lockdowns, with the equivalent of 65.8% of annual global production of this industrious precious metal was on hold as of April 27.

"Silver mining companies such as First Majestic, Hochschild, Hecla Mining and Endeavour Silver have all withdrawn their production guidance for 2020 in the wake of the outbreak," said GlobalData Mining Analyst Vinneth Bajaj.

In addition to silver, roughly 32% of uranium production, 23.8% of zinc, 19.5% platinum, 14.6% of nickel, 14.4% of diamond, and 12.7% of copper were on-hold as of April 27.

"Progress has also been halted on 23 mines under construction, including the US$5.3 billion Quellaveco copper mine in Peru, which is one of the world's biggest copper mines currently under development. The project has an annual copper production capacity of up to 180kt and is expected to commence operations by 2022," said Bajaj. "In Chile, while a lockdown is not in force, Antofagasta has halted work on its Los Pelambres project and Teck Resources has suspended work on the Quebrada Blanca Phase II mine."

The good news is global governments are beginning to loosen restrictions on mining, which is increasingly being consider an essential service, and more than half of the suspended operations are resuming production.

As of April 27, the number of mines on temporary suspension had dropped to 729. GlobalData, however, said the exempted mines are operating with reduced numbers of workers to minimize the potential spread of coronavirus, which is causing a slow return for the industry.

As of May 1, lockdowns remain in force in countries such as Peru (until May 10), Mexico (May 30), and Namibia (May 4).

The provincial government of Quebec in Canada extended its COVID-19 restrictions to May 4, but since April 15 has been allowing mines to resume operations as essential services if they comply with strict measures to limit the spread of the virus.

Restrictions on mining in India, Argentina, Zimbabwe and South Africa have also been withdrawn, with mining seen as an essential service.

The United States deemed mining as an essential service early on during the COVID-19 crisis. While government mandated lockdowns in the U.S. have not affected mining in the U.S., travel restrictions and other measures related to COVID-19 has made it difficult to maintain full operations at some mines, primarily due to limits on workforce availability.

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Shane Lasley, Publisher

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Over his more than 16 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.


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