Canadian mining company in Peru tried to cover up COVID-19 outbreak endangering workers, community – report

A Canadian mining company stands accused of trying to cover up a COVID-19 outbreak at one of its mines in Peru jeopardizing the health of workers and the nearby communities, according to a report by a human rights organization.

A Peruvian organization, Human Rights Without Frontiers-Cusco (Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras-Cusco or DSHF) has published a report based on information from local communities affected by Hudbay Minerals’s Constancia mine, shedding light on a recent outbreak of COVID-19 that is jeopardizing the health and lives of workers and surrounding communities, where at least 21 workers have now tested positive for the virus[1]REPORTE N° 01-2020-DHSF

According to the report, the company has 744 employees at Constancia plus many more third-party contract workers.

On March 15, the Peruvian government declared a “state of sanitary emergency,” but permitted mining companies to continue working at a reduced capacity due to their “strategic” nature.

Following this decision, Hudbay announced that it would follow the government’s direction and move operations to care and maintenance.

After 45 days, workers warned of a possible infection on one of the shifts, but the company immediately denied the allegations, stating on April 26 that “at present there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at our Constancia mining unit. None.”

According to the report, this statement was contradicted the following day by the Chumbivilcas Health Network who noted that the company had tested workers and have discovered 18 positive cases (1 of whom was a worker from Veilile, an nearby original community).

“The fact that the company lied about the possible outbreak comes as no surprise”, says Kirsten Francescone, Latin America Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, “Hudbay has a full history of violating the human rights of local populations at its operations in Guatemala and Peru. Their lack of respect for the Constancia affected communities facing this global pandemic forms part of a historic pattern of behaviour.”

Despite the confirmed positive cases and having an entire page dedicated to COVID-19, the company has not released a press statement to its investors about the outbreak.

Local Indigenous communities and sanitary authorities have expressed their concern about this outbreak, due to existing vulnerabilities resulting from the impacts of the mine, especially dust, which could be further complicated by their remoteness and distance from specialized health services.

Local populations from various communities are demanding that local authorities take the necessary measures to guarantee their right to health, including: rapid identification of people who have had contact with infected workers; more concerted effort on the part of local health services to avoid the propagation of the virus; greater transparency about actions that Hudbay is taking with respect to the pandemic; on-site mine supervision of the company’s pandemic measures by the health authorities, and finally, that the relevant authorities investigate the company for violating sanitary measures and putting the health of workers and local populations at grave risk.

References   [ + ]

1. REPORTE N° 01-2020-DHSF