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How Covid 19 affected the mining industry

Covid 19 effect on mining

The global pandemic that started in 2020 (or 2019, technically) has left its scars on the worldwide economy. While the 2022 war in Ukraine is the focus of a lot of current research, it’s worth exploring exactly how the pandemic affected the dynamics and operations of mining companies around the world. There are some lasting effects, from the ‘aftershocks’ of price fluctuations to more unpredictable demand and disrupted supply chains. While Covid 19 might be an anomaly and not likely to repeat itself, it’s impossible to predict the future and companies would be wise to have some plans in place should a similar disruption strike again.

The onset of Covid 19

The drop in demand for fossil fuels caused by lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates had a significant impact on a lot of mines. Coal prices fell rapidly, by about 20-25%, while, on a larger scale, economies reliant on mining saw their currencies devalued by up to 30%. Some precious metals, like gold, were unaffected, but the vast majority saw their prices fall between 2020 and 2021. Oil prices, famously, fell so quickly that some joked about giving it away for free. Jokes aside, oil price decreases were not actually as bad as in 2008 and 2014, at only around 35%. On top of falling profits, mining companies were forced to reckon with a new slew of safety precautions. Operations had to work with limited staff, reducing efficiency and making many operations postpone non-critical maintenance, with long-lasting effects.


While this time period is loosely defined, as some countries are still treating Covid 19 as a pandemic, by the end of 2020, some of the initial shocks were wearing off. However, the mining industry was and remains at a certain amount of risk. As a key component of the supply chain, mining is also directly tied to the dynamics of supply and demand. Some operations ceased production during the initial stages of Covid 19, like Uranium mines in Kazakhstan. Restarting operations is cheaper than starting from scratch, but still costly when there is the continued risk of certain demand staying low or prices fluctuating regularly. Mines in more remote areas had the benefit of fewer risks, so they often remained open. Still, productivity suffered across the board and many mines faced small to significant shortages of labor.

The long-term effects

There are two issues when discussing the impact of Covid 19 past 2022. Firstly, it has not been long enough to gather all the necessary information and understand it in context. Secondly, the 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russia also created a plethora of disruption, through sanctions and other means. As a result, data past 2022 is intrinsically tangling war with the aftershocks of Covid. Uncertainty is still high, though the mining industry has a few things to look forward to. Namely, the 2022 invasion of Ukraine has caused much of the European Union to accelerate its electrification plans. This will require copious amounts of copper, lithium, and other metals and minerals. Demand will remain very high and this will be a great boon for the mining industry.

What should the industry keep in mind?

First, industry leaders need to be aware that massive market disruptions are no longer that rare, as 2020-2022 saw two, almost back to back. Every company needs to have contingency plans and to possess quality monitoring equipment to give itself the best data. Electrification will keep demand high for the foreseeable future, but it comes with the need for companies to decarbonize. The mining industry is in the spotlight, as a major emitter of CO2 and it needs to embrace more sustainable solutions. Industry leaders need to cooperate and learn from each other about the best practices of mining technology, risk management and the potential pitfalls of the future.  

Join key decision-makers at the Efficient Mining Operations Summit in Barcelona, Spain from May 4th to 5th to learn more. Visit or and follow us on our social media to keep track of other events about sustainability in the mining and metals industry.