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Over 35% of DRC’s goldmines at risk of Ebola outbreak

More than 35% of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s goldmines are at risk of being affected by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the country. The number of people infected with the often fatal virus has now exceeded 1,000 cases, the World Health Organization confirmed, making it the second-worst outbreak in history, with daily rates on the rise as response workers continue to face violence.

In addition to the obvious risks for those working in the country’s gold mines, companies are now facing delays in their exports, as part of Ebola prevention methods being implemented at border checkpoints. This is according to Indigo Ellis, Verisk Maplecroft’s lead DRC Analyst warns.

Meanwhile, Barrick’s Kibali and Vector Resources’ Adidi-Kanga gold mines are now threatened as the Ebola-infected areas grow, potentially jeopardizing output. The effect on gold producers depends on whether mines are industrial or artisanal, and on how close they are to known cases. In Ellis’ view, there are two major issues the gold mining industry has to urgently deal with.

One is the risk to mine staff. The analyst goes on to explain that larger industrial mining companies will need to enact strict protocols to reduce the risk of transmission to their sites, which will likely slow down ore extraction and construction efforts. Secondly, Ebola prevention methods at border checkpoints will almost certainly slow gold exports as the Ugandan government and World Health Organization (WHO) introduce measures to limit the spread.

On the other hand, Verisk Maplecroft has detected a growing threat to industrial mines such as Barrick’s Kibali and Vector Resources’ Adidi-Kanga, which increases the likelihood of gold production being affected. This is most especially after the recent confirmation of cases in Bunia, a city of close to 1 million people, closer to the Ugandan border than previous outbreaks.

The DRC generates more than 60% of the world’s cobalt, a key material for making the batteries that power electric cars.

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