Covid-19 disrupts US$8.8B of global mining output, S&P says

Practicing social distancing at Rio Tinto's Pilbara operation in Cape Lambert, Western Australia. Credit: Rio Tinto.

Covid-19 has impacted the mining industry across the globe as lockdowns and travel restrictions have forced companies to halt or scale down operations and suspend work on projects, while reopening plans have been disrupted by fresh outbreaks.

S&P Global Market Intelligence in a new report measures the impact of mine closures and project delays, showing Latin America is the hardest hit in terms of the value of at-risk production.

In total, US$8.84 billion in mining revenue is classified as at-risk, and S&P Global identified, as of June 25, disruptions to 275 mine sites in 36 countries. The research company notes that all but 36 mines have reopened to some degree, with four having to reclose so far due to new outbreaks at mine sites.

Global mining has escaped the worst of Covid-19, in terms of production disruptions, because major producing nations across Latin America and countries such as Canada and South Africa declared mining essential industries.

Not surprisingly, copper and base metal revenues make up the bulk of the global total with US$4.3 billion and 55 projects at risk.

On a revenue basis, Peru is responsible for nearly a quarter of the total as large-scale copper operations including Antamina, Cerro Verde and Las Bambas are impacted by temporary nationwide quarantines.

Ten at-risk copper operations in Chile including the giant Los Pelambres copper mine (production revenues of nearly US$700 million) and Codelco’s top mines add up to US$1.1 billion in possible revenue losses from Covid-19 in the world’s top copper mining country.

Mexico’s 15 gold and 13 silver operations, with just over US$1 billion in at-risk revenue, means that these three countries combined constitute almost half the global total in terms of revenues.

On a per mine basis, South Africa is most impacted with 55 projects at risk, including the giant Sishen iron ore mine, and 21 gold and 16 platinum mines adding up to US$1 billion in potential Covid-19 related revenue losses.

In contrast, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s mining revenues have not been impacted at all. S&P Global identifies Ivanhoe Mines’ (TSX: IVN; US-OTC: IVPAF) Kamoa-Kakula as possibly at risk, but, so far, construction of the massive copper mine remains ahead of schedule.

Latin America and South Africa’s dire circumstances also compare to the U.S., where 42 projects – mostly coal – comes to a much smaller US$402 million in affected income. Canada has 30 projects (19 gold) at risk with the Voisey’s Bay nickel mine the largest operation affected.

Precious metals mining is the most severely impacted sector in terms of operations, with 122 at risk globally, including 23 expansion, construction and pre-production projects.

Operating gold mines under threat of disruption total 111, closely followed by silver, with 101 operations and 16 platinum projects. Precious metals constitute US$3.4 billion at risk.

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on uranium mining, with 24 projects with revenues totalling US$495 million at risk, while lithium mining has escaped relatively unscathed apart from a handful of projects in Argentina.

— A version of this article first appeared on


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