Report explores the impact of COVID-19 on the mining sector

June 26, 2020

To better understand the immediate impacts of COVID-19 on the mineral exploration and mining workforce, the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG) conducted a brief online survey from April 23 to May 2, 2020. The survey was shared among contacts in the minerals sector who were asked about the impacts on their employment, the nature of the impacts, and their level of concern about their job security due to COVID-19 for the remainder of 2020.

Some countries deemed mining and mineral exploration to be essential businesses that could remain open. Mineral exploration was severely affected by travel restrictions. 

The survey fortuitously captured data just before many parts of the world began to reopen after a nearly global lockdown. Thus, the results capture the opinions of individuals at the height of the response to the initial pandemic.

iCRAG received a total of 1,007 useable responses from people whose current or most recent employment spanned 55 countries.

Covid-19 had a significant impact on work in the minerals sector within seven weeks of the declaration of the pandemic.

  • 65 percent of respondents agreed (28 percent) or strongly agreed (37 percent) that “COVID-19 has already affected my work significantly”.

Overall, 32 percent of respondents had experienced negative impacts on their employment, having either lost their jobs, been furloughed/temporarily laid off, or working reduced hours.

  • Geographically, the greatest impact on employment was in Africa, where 45 percent of respondents suffered negative impacts.
  • Younger people were more likely to lose their jobs (13.6 percent of 18–30-year-olds) than older people (5.5 percent of 46–60-year-olds).
  • Older people were more likely to work reduced hours (20.8 percent of 46–60-year-olds) than younger people (13.2 percent of 31–45-year-olds and 15.4 percent of 18–30-year-olds).
  • The mineral exploration sector was most affected (40 percent suffered negative job impacts).
  • Government employees were least affected but were not immune (10 percent on reduced hours).
  • The impacts on employment in base metals, industrial metals, and precious metals were broadly similar.

The level of concern about job security in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis varied, with 35 percent of respondents being more or very concerned or having already lost their job, 43 percent having little or no concern, and 22 percent moderately concerned (marking their concern as 3 on a scale of 1 to 5).

  • Levels of concern for job security were highest in Africa followed by South America, and lowest in Australia.
  • The unemployed were most concerned about their employment in 2020, followed by consultants. Students also showed high levels of concern, with 43 percent ranking their concern as 3 or higher on the 5-point scale.
  • Older people tended to be somewhat less concerned about job stability than younger people
  • (46 percent of those over 61 and 45 percent of those 46–60 years old being not or little concerned vs. 40 percent of 31–45-year-olds and 42 percent of those 18–30-years old).
  • Levels of concern were highest in the mineral exploration and lowest in the research and government sectors.
  • Levels of concern were broadly similar across the base metals, industrial metals and precious metals sectors.

A full report on the methodology and results of the survey is available on the iCRAG website.


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