SMHL – Initiatives combating COVID 19 Pandemic

Sierra Mineral Holdings 1 Limited (SMHL) is one of the large-scale mining companies operating in Sierra Leone and is geared towards curtail, contain and control the spread of COVID 19 in the country. SMHL has created an Emergency Response Committee (ERC) and Outbreak Task Force (OTF) consists of 21 members including qualified medical staffs and nurses specially trained to respond to COVID 19 patients right at the onset of the spread of virus in the country. SMHL’s operation is centered around three districts – Moyamba, Bo and Bonthe with significant population coming from Moyamba and Bonthe. See figure 1 below.

SMHL ERC put in place specific strategies within its operations to support the overall vision and mission of the nation to make it COVID 19 free and reduce the impact of the spread of virus in question. Several initiatives were taken up to combat the situation which are not necessarily nation centric but definitely focusing protection, prevention and recovery of immediate large mass in the affected communities. A number of stake holders’ engagements are being carried out at different levels at regular intervals in the communities to enhance the awareness and make them recognize the existence of the crisis. SMHL Management through ERC has been putting specific stringent measures within the operation and affected larger communities and ensure the interface is being managed carefully. SMHL has distributed necessary sanitization items (including veronica buckets, face masks, hand sanitation, etc) and direct monetary support  to its affected communities to improve level of protection and reduce exposures and vulnerabilities where possible. Total expenses related to curtailment of COVID-19 till date are 55 thousand USD. SMHL ERC is constantly reinforcing the mandatory utilization of all relevant PPEs amongst not only within its work force, but also amongst associated business partners and immediate family members of staff and dependents etc. SMHL has engaged local vendors within the mining communities in the production of mass face masks which is being distributed to the large vulnerable communities in the region. SMHL through its Community Development Center (CDC) arm has embarked on delivering critical sanitization supplies, to providing counselling and support services to help frontline response workers and the communities.

Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) have activated Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) in all districts and SMHL took the strategy to directly form partnership with the respective EOCs in the immediate 3 districts which pertains directly to SMHL operations as a most logical approach. SMHL has recently made engagement with Moyamba district EOC to understand potential challenges in opening and running their EOC successfully and carefully identified the constraints to support them immediately. On that note, SMHL made a donation of a sum of hundred million Leones (100,000,000 Leones equivalent to approx.USD 10,000) to support reconstruction of quarantine hall and Isolation centers. Another donation of twenty million Leones (20,000,000 Leones equivalent to approx.USD 2,000) was made to Bonthe district EOC to support getting necessary sanitization items for the concern district. SMHL Management team is in constant engagement with various stake holders in Local and national level to proactively identify specific opportunities which have direct impact on the immediate communities and districts to fight against the pandemic. Considering the current financial state of SMHL where availability of resources is sparse, SMHL Management has been mindful in careful prioritization and allocation of scarce resources towards fight of COVID 19 pandemic. SMHL Management has been constantly replenishing its stock of COVID PPEs to ensure all SMHL staffs, stake holders, partners and immediate community members are safe and protected. SMHL invested on bringing in COVID 19 test kits as an internal control measures and strategy to proactively identify carriers of the virus and isolate them in order to safe guard the bigger population. SMHL Management has invested in broad casting communications in local radios, newspapers and television channels to improve the level of awareness within the work force and communities on prevention, protection and management of COVID 19 in this pandemic era. 

SMHL Management remains focused to run its operations following all stringent measures in place in line with Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) mandate to ensure the balance between life and economy is put in sanity and absorb the consequences of the pandemic to the best possible manner. SMHL believes this approach will certainly help to sustain regional economic development, which is vital for the long-term damage control of the nation. SMHL is geared up mentally to move through the COVID curve at different speeds depending on how the pandemic further evolves both locally and globally. Much will depend on the capacity to withstand shocks through the duration of the crisis, their degree of agility and forward action from SMHL BoD and Management. 

SMHL Management remained cautious in the scenario generation and be prepared to take bold decisions despite the uncertainties. SMHL believes to go beyond the traditional resilience formulas, and constantly in collaboration with other Mining Groups in the country under the umbrella of Chamber of Mines is to make meaningful tangible impact which should go long way to manage this crisis as a strong business partner of GoSL and contribute to the overall vision and mission statement of the nation in a very meaningful way. While some of these lobbying efforts seek legitimate government support to help mining companies, workers, and communities confront an economic and social emergency. 

SMHL believes that through the intervention at local level in the prevention, protection and cure of immediate vulnerable communities within which it operates will secure the achievement of the bigger picture of the nation to ensure its sustainable contribution towards its survival through this crisis and maintain the economic strength to combat the pandemic.