Mining sites in Canada, the US and around the world have become hotspots for the spread of coronavirus, and approximately 4,000 mine workers in 18 countries have tested positive, according to a report by an international coalition of non-profit groups.
The report links mining sites to virus outbreaks in several Indigenous and remote communities.
In a separate statement more than 330 organisations around the world called mining “one of the most polluting, deadly, and destructive industries” and accused the industry of ignoring the threats of pandemic and using it to weaken regulations.
“We reject the central claim that mining represents an essential service,” it reads.
The mining industry pushed governments to declare them “essential” and many continue to operate throughout the pandemic in the US and Canada, said Kirsten Francescone of MiningWatch Canada, one of the non-profit groups that authored the report.
Mine workers and members of nearby Indigenous and remote rural communities are at grave risk.
At least 45 infected workers from a fly-in, fly-out work camp housing thousands at Exxon’s Imperial Oil Kearl Lake oil sands mine project in northern Alberta flew home in mid-April unknowingly spreading the virus in five Canadian provinces.
This triggered an outbreak in a remote northern Saskatchewan Dene village, killing two elders, and in a long-term care home in British Columbia. The Kearl Lake outbreak has expanded to 107 cases as the mine continues to operate.
In mid-May another Alberta oilsands operation reported an outbreak but Alberta government officials insist these operations must remain open to protect the economy, said Francescone. “These outbreaks are hardly surprising with mine workers living together in camps.”
French winemakers are to turn unsold wine into hand gel and ethanol to make room for this year’s production, the country’s farming agency has said.
The government agency FranceAgriMer said around 3m hectolitres needed distilling as a result of lower sales during the coronavirus crisis.
Winemakers have been hit by the closure of bars and restaurants in France and abroad. Exports to the US, which halved after the Trump administration introduced punitive 25% tariffs last October, fell further after the Covid-19 outbreak.
FranceAgriMer said that from Friday, 33 distilleries had been authorised to collect 2m hectolitres of unsold wine to transform it into ethanol or hydro-alcoholic gel in order to free up room in vintners’ caves for this year’s production.
The exceptional measure has been approved by Brussels, and the EU will finance the distillation, the agency added.
Similar measures are being employed in Spain and Italy to deal with an excess of wine and to destroy young grapes.
The alcohol produced through the distilling process will be used by the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry and for the production of hand sanitising gel.
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