Most economic activities were halted in Mexico in late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the deputy secretary of work at the national level for the Confederation of Mexican Workers, Javier Villarreal, is asking the federal government to include mining in its list of essential services so that operations can resume in May.
The union leader, speaking to the newspaper El Universal, said activities at mine sites and processing plants should be resumed once heightened hygiene measures are implemented and people in high-risk groups are banned from going to work.
Villarreal is not the first one to request the exemption. In early April, industry leaders started pushing for an exclusion to the temporary halt of non-essential activities, arguing mining should be allowed to continue due to its importance to national supply chains and host communities.
Mining makes up about 4% of Mexico’s GDP. The country is the world’s largest silver producer, responsible for nearly 23% of the global supply of the metal. In 2019, Mexico produced 200 million oz. silver, up from 196.6 million oz. in 2018. It also hosts major copper and zinc mines and produces a significant amount of gold.
As of April 19, Mexico had 7,497 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and reported 650 deaths. Due to rising numbers, President Manuel Lopez Obrador has extended social distancing measures until May 30.