May 17, 2022

Miners Try to Get Covid-19 Vaccines Into Areas Where Shots Are Scarce

Mining companies are throwing their weight behind vaccination efforts as Covid-19 continues to ravage much of the developing world.

Miners are offering vaccines and bolstering healthcare services to employees and surrounding communities. The effort is focused on poorer nations, where healthcare systems are weak, vaccines are scarce and inoculation campaigns lag far behind those in the West. Anglo American PLC has said it is spending as much as $30 million to support the global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines across its footprint. Other miners, from Glencore PLC to Rio Tinto PLC, have been offering support to local governments during the pandemic, from conducting screening and mobile testing to donating extra beds for hospitals and clinics.

Miners, often cast as villains by locals who say their activities destroy landscapes and cause harmful pollution, are welcoming vaccine programs as a chance to soften their image. The strategy is particularly potent in commodity-rich markets in Africa, where just 0.5% of the 1.5 billion population has received a vaccine, compared with 63% of Americans.

By helping governments administer the shots, many companies hope they can rapidly rescale production depressed by the pandemic at a time when the prices of many commodities are surging as U.S. and Chinese demand rebounds.

Production of most commodities is still subdued or lower this year than in the same period in 2019, before the pandemic. While production of lithium is up by a third compared with 2019, platinum is 11% lower and copper and nickel are only 1% higher, according to the investment bank Liberum. Prices for many commodities are soaring, thanks in large part to the supply imbalance.

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