Public health issues are critical in the African countries in which our major operations are based. Taken together these four countries – Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC and Senegal – have an average life expectancy of just 54 years and can be badly affected by diseases such as malaria, polio and HIV/AIDS.
“Company clinics are established at every mine site and treat employees, employees’
dependents and people from the local communities.”
Such diseases do not stop at the fences of our projects and we therefore work to minimise health issues not only for our workforce but also for the wider communities in which most of them live.
Our workforce can also be exposed to occupational health issues such as high levels of dust or toxins and we view the task of minimising these exposures and providing a healthy workplace as integral to our pact with employees. The benefits to our business of a healthy workforce, in the broadest sense, include reduced sickness leave, lower training and recruitment costs and improved productivity.
Our group-wide occupational health policy identifies the potential health hazards that are common to a gold mine such as dust, lead, cyanide and noise. Our policy puts in place critical steps for each mine to avoid the occupational diseases that may result. For example, to avoid saturnism from lead exposure each employee working in a lead process environment must undergo blood tests to ensure exposure limits of 1mg/m3 over eight hours have not been surpassed.
Our assessments of safe exposure levels are based on internationally recognised monitoring standards, including OHSAS 18001. To eliminate or minimise exposure to the hazards, we provide personal protective equipment and regular training and ensure that the materials and equipment to deal with traumatic, toxic and cardiovascular emergencies are in place and regularly checked. All employees must pass minimum standards of fitness in order for their job to be performed safely.
Our policies on community health are framed by the independent baseline study of
health issues that we commission at the feasibility stage of our projects. This enables
us to identify the most important local health issues, prioritise needs and then to
measure our contribution. It also ensures that no negative health trends already
present before our arrival can be unjustly attributed to the company at a later date.
Company clinics are established at every mine site and treat employees, employees’ dependants and people from the local communities. Our medical staff work in partnership with the host governments, the World Health Organisation and local NGOs on a number of public health initiatives including inoculations against diseases such as polio, yellow fever and tetanus. We also run specific programmes to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria which pose two of the main health risks to our workforce and local communities.
All group medical officers measure and report against a standardised set of occupational and community health indicators. We also collaborate with medical charities and local healthcare authorities to deliver crucial medical equipment and supplies to village clinics in these areas.
The main occupational health issues include the potential for high levels of ambient dust in the air and poisons such as cyanide. We manage this by assessing the risks at each part of each site and identifying the need for protective equipment or for exposure reduction measures – such as wet screening to reduce dust levels
near rock crushing equipment. All potential cyanide hazards and risks are highlighted in a risk assessment at each site and personnel protective equipment, training and signage is available and regularly tested as required by the Cyanide Code. We have had no health incidents related to cyanide this year.
Our clinics deal with both occupational and community health issues. In 2011 more than 78 600 medical consultations were held for workers and community members at our clinics. The clinic at Kibali treated more than 9 400 patients last year, while Loulo
treated around 90 patients per day. Around a quarter of cases were related to local villagers or employees’ dependants, reinforcing the important service we provide to the wider communities of our workforce. We delivered inoculations against polio, tetanus and yellow fever and also offered our facilities and resources to
allow UN agencies to carry out other vaccinations. We have also used mobile video units (MVUs) to help spread health education in an entertaining way and these have proved very popular – at Morila more than 1 000 villagers attended MVU sessions during one quarter.
Fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS
We have taken a series of measures to combat both HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Randgold has worked in Africa for over 15 years and has become well acquainted with the difficulties of dealing with malaria. For example, we conduct an annual entomological survey at each site to determine the most effective insecticide to combat the disease.
“70% decrease HIV in prevalence rate among people who sign-up for voluntary testing at our mine clinics.”
This year the survey showed a growing resistance by mosquitoes in some parts of West Africa to insecticides such as Deltaméthrine and so we plan to switch to Carbamate in areas such as Loulo where malaria incidence rose this year (see table on previous page). This site specific information feeds into our daily efforts against the disease including the distribution of impregnated mosquito nets and repellents, anti-mosquito spraying in a number of agricultural areas and malaria education programmes at all our sites.
To combat the spread of HIV/AIDS we have distributed more than 175 000 condoms to employees and their families this year as well as providing free and confidential HIV testing, and running educational programmes. This year 887 employees and subcontractor employees were tested for HIV on a voluntary basis at
our mine clinics. An HIV prevalence rate of 1.14% was recorded which compares favourably with the 3.76% recorded in 2012.
There is some evidence that these measures are contributing to positive outcomes. The incidence rate of malaria has dropped significantly at Morila this year from 26.69% in 2010 to 20.9%. The year under review also saw a downward trend in the reported incidence of new HIV cases. In the two mines where comparable
data exists (Loulo and Morila), only 12 new cases were reported compared to 33 in 2010, with zero new cases at Morila. Although we recognise every new infection may not be reported, taken together with the increase in voluntary testing, this does suggest a positive downward trend in actual new infections.
Malaria is a bigger problem in the eastern DRC than in West Africa as it has a significantly longer wet season (nine months) than the four to five month wet season in the latter. Kibali which is currently an early stage construction project had a malaria incidence rate of 113.15 in 2011 and has started the implementation of malaria
control measures with assistance from Professor Hunt and the Malaria Control Group at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. The established mines are better set up to combat malaria than mine development sites and new mines. Tongon
was a construction site for most of 2010 whilst Gounkoto was in construction in 2011.
As with all our business efforts, Randgold sees partnership as a vital part of implementing our health policy. We have helped to import US$1.8 million worth of medical equipment in co-operation with medical charities such as CURE to the Wasta/Durba area of the DRC, US$900 000 worth of medical equipment to Mali through the charity Doc to Dock and a further US$1 million is being delivered
to the Korhogo/M’bengue area of the northern Côte d’Ivoire. We also work closely with NGOs such as CIDA and the United Nations on their HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives, making our mine facilities, medical staff and transport available.
Our health efforts face constant pressures and we will continue to undertake the evaluations and care necessary to ensure a healthy workforce and an improving situation in the communities in which they live. The poor health levels in the DRC (see facing page) mean that mitigation of the health risks identified in our medical baseline tudy will be a major task for the upcoming year.
Across several mines there will also be a renewed focus on dust management. Reducing dust is an important challenge for many of our occupational health teams.
We will also seek to develop further our partnerships with NGOs, charities, national and international authorities to provide much needed health services and facilities in the areas surrounding our mines. For example, we will be assisting the USAID/CURE
Matching Fund Initiative in the DRC by making all the arrangements and hosting their trip into northeastern DRC to assess the requirements of the hospitals and clinics in towns of Bunia, Isiro and Watsa and the surrounding areas. During 2012 we aim to
facilitate the delivery of another US$2 million worth of medical equipment to the northeastern DRC in conjunction with CURE and USAID.
We are also currently discussing research with the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on the effectiveness of impregnating bricks with mosquito repellent. If successful this could be rolled into resettlement activity as well as already established communities. “70% decrease HIV in prevalence rate among people who sign-up for voluntary testing at our mine clinics.”