Miners battle to keep Ebola at bay in West Africa

Fri Aug 8, 2014 11:34am EDT
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By Karen Rebelo

Aug 8 (Reuters) - Mining companies are acting swiftly to keep the Ebola virus at bay, screening employees and restricting access to remote mining camps while production ticks over in the iron ore and gold fields of West Africa.

A prolonged outbreak, however, will threaten mineral production in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea if essential supplies are disrupted and employees stay away from work too long.

Or worse: should a miner or family member contract the deadly virus.

"I think everyone is mindful that it's something that has the potential to impact businesses," said Mark Bristow, chief executive of Randgold Resources Ltd, which mines gold in Mali, across the border from Guinea.

Though it has no mines in countries affected thus far, Randgold is among several miners in West Africa to have launched preventive measures against an outbreak that has killed more than 900 people in four countries.

The World Health Organisation has called the epidemic an "extraordinary event" that constitutes an international health risk. There is no known cure for Ebola, which is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids.

The outbreak began in eastern Guinea in February, before spreading to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Cases have also been recorded in Nigeria.

Not a single case of Ebola has been recorded among the employees of those companies mining and exploring large reserves of oil, iron ore, bauxite and gold in the region. But some have sent workers home and scaled back or suspended exploration.   Continued...