Published December 21st, 2020
Mine Reopening in the COVID-19 Era
From mining industry-led countries to global mining companies, shutting down operations has been a necessity to curb the spread of the new Coronavirus. For a company, reopening mines or even scaling back operations can only take “days or weeks” where restrictions have been lifted, but for a country, especially where more than 450,000 miners were sent home in 24 hours, getting them back will take much longer as “the queue is going to be 40 kilometers long”.
This article will briefly discuss:
- reopening trends in the mining industry;
- why are inspections important, especially when reopening mines?;
- what items should be in a mine reopening checklist?; and
- free mine reopening checklists you can download, customize, and use.
Top Trends in Mine Reopening
Amidst a global pandemic, challenges for mine operators and miners differ by location, or if the respective governments consider mining as an “essential service”, size, or how much of the entire workforce will return to work and if that much is already enough to resume operations, and resources, if companies have the appropriate precautionary measures in place to prevent viral infections and cross-transmissions.
As the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, received tons of Coronavirus-related questions, they responded with their actions and practices for mining companies to curb the spread of COVID-19. The MSHA states that what mine operators and miners should do is essentially to abide by CDC’s guidance on COVID-19 prevention such as:
- Avoid close contact or practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet or 2 meters, including not crowding personnel carriers, hoists, elevators, and other means of transportation at the mine
- Clean and disinfect, especially high-touch surfaces such as frequently-used tools, machinery, and personal protective equipment
- Wash your hands or use an at least 60% alcohol hand sanitizer
- Stay at home if you are sick
According to MSHA regulations, if a mine is abandoned or declared inactive, and before it is reopened, mining operations shall not begin until the MSHA has been notified and has completed an inspection.
Specifically, prior to reopening any surface coal mine, operators should inform the Coal Mine Health and Safety District Manager for the district in which the mine is located, and an inspection of the entire mine shall be completed by an authorized representative of the Labor Secretary before mining operations in such mines are instituted.
The Importance of Inspections Before Reopening Mines
Restrictions or policies are being modified according to the number of cases per country. The mining industry—or any industry—for that matter cannot afford losses in an already dwindling skilled workforce. Moreover, any loss due to preventable health and safety incidents is a loss to many, since it affects not only the industry, but also the quality of life of the workers.
As mining companies look into a phased reopening, or gradually bringing back operations on care and maintenance into some level of production, restarting strong and keeping people prepared, healthy, and safe should be prioritized through industrial health screenings, comprehensive safety inspections, and consistent spot checks.
Elements of Mine Reopening Checklists
A mine reopening checklist is a tool used by mine operators to make sure that industry-guided precautionary measures are in place before resuming operations. Miners can easily identify areas of improvement and elevate their preparedness for reopening by assessing mine operations and mitigating health and safety risks with the guidance from a checklist. Here are baseline screening questions from a checklist used by a gold miner in the U.S.:
- Have you returned from any country outside the U.S. the last 14 days?
- Have you had close contact with or cared for someone with flu-like symptoms or diagnosed with COVID-19 during your time off?
- Have you experienced any cold or flu-like symptoms in the last 14 days (to include fever, cough, sore throat, respiratory illness, difficulty breathing)?
To make it easier for mine operators and their staff to reopen strong and stay ahead in the mining industry, we’ve curated a variety of mine reopening checklists used by top global miners you can download for free and use with iAuditor by SafetyCulture.
Disclaimer: Please note that these checklists are hypothetical examples and provide basic information only. They are not intended to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should also seek professional advice to determine if the use of such checklists are permissible in your workplace or jurisdiction.
Featured Mine Reopening Checklists
Mine Facility Reopening Readiness Checklist
This reopening readiness checklist can be used by mine operators to perform mine readiness assessments for reopening after a lockdown. Use this checklist to ensure that the systems in a mine are functional and policies are updated with the latest COVID-19 guidelines for the safe return of employees and customers.
MSHA Documentation Checklist
An MSHA documentation checklist is used to verify the availability, traceability, and completeness of mining records as required by the MSHA. This checklist is used by Hunter Dickinson, Inc. (HDI), a global mining group headquartered in Canada, to validate the legal identification, record of examination of working places, and more in their mineral properties. This checklist can also be used by mine operators to make baseline preparations for mine reopening.
MSHA Inspection Checklist
An MSHA inspection checklist is used to internally audit mining operations and ensure compliance with MSHA regulations, especially prior to mine reopening. This checklist is used by the American Smelting and Refining Company in their Arizona-based copper mine to inspect 5 citations, assess their gravity, severity, and significance, and take action for their termination. This checklist can also be used to help ensure readiness before reopening mines.
Mine Site Safety Inspection Checklist
A mine site safety inspection checklist is used by miners to check the overall safety of a mining site including vehicles and equipment, road conditions, emergency response plan, mechanical and electrical safety, onsite offices, and more. This checklist can be used to evaluate basic safety measures in a mine site every week and gauge if operations can continue despite the coronavirus outbreak.