The mining firm has long made healthcare a priority in all the communities where it operates
First Quantum Minerals has put in place contingency plans to deal with the global COVID-19 pandemic by further strengthening clinical healthcare facilities and stepping up prevention awareness for employees and communities surrounding its mining operations in the Kalumbila and Solwezi districts of North-Western Province.
Beyond the drive to keep people and communities healthy, First Quantum’s focus has been on raising awareness among management, its employees and host communities on the COVID-19 and how its spread can be prevented.
First Quantum Minerals’ health programmes and projects adviser Gertrude Musunka said the mining firm was promoting a healthy workforce, including optimising the organisation and the working environment, as well as promoting the active involvement of all people concerned.
“Management and employees have been educated on hand, respiratory and surface hygiene. All employees are encouraged to practice good hand hygiene by not hand-shaking, and by washing hands and using sanitiser,” said Musunka.
“If left unchecked, this deadly virus will have a devastating impact on mining operations, not just for First Quantum, but the entire mining sector, which is the backbone of Zambia’s economy, the largest formal employer and the largest contributor to government revenue in form of taxes,” she warned.
First Quantum Minerals through its public-private partnership is bridging the knowledge gaps on the importance of practicing good hygiene, encouraging communities to adhere to the COVID-19 prevention guidelines set by government and encouraging other private enterprises to lend a hand.
She added that the company was proud to play its part in directly contributing to the communities in which it works, but that while it is proactive in implementing its community health programmes, it cannot effectively work without help from its stakeholders in the community.
“Our local traditional leaders play a particularly important role in spreading messages and influencing the community positively, and we also work within government ministries to ensure the contingency plans are implemented within the government policy framework,” she continued.
First Quantum has long made healthcare a priority in all the communities where it operates. The challenge, especially in less prosperous regions, is where to draw the line between problems that the company has a responsibility to help address, and those that remain within the mandate of the public healthcare system.
“It is for this reason that the company has aligned its community initiatives with every one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a move that puts it at the forefront of best practice in private sector social investment locally and globally,” she said.
Goal 3 aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all age, addressed by FQM’s various healthcare initiatives and agriculture support.
FQM’s efforts to improve community-based health services while advancing disease prevention are framed by a broader vision of where corporate support can have the most impact. For any mining company, workplace health and community well-being are inextricably linked.
Ms Musunka explained that using its six health pillars, the mining firm has also been focusing on the workplace and the community with water hygiene and sanitation, communicable and non-communicable diseases awareness programmes, as well as health systems strengthening.
She added that in early 2019, FQM replaced the roof, doors, electrical wiring and incubators that were damaged by a storm at Solwezi General Hospital’s maternity wing at an estimated cost of K1.1 million.
FQM has spent over US$100 million on its sustainability and community development programmes to improve the health and the quality of life for its employees, their families and their immediate communities.