AS more companies investigate mining opportunities in West Africa, they are finding that operating in the region presents a new realm of risk management considerations. International SOS can assist companies in managing security and medical risks, which are often intertwined. Mining companies operating in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Mauritania have recently had to activate their emergency response and site security plans following political and social unrest, to the point where site evacuations have occurred.
Clear and robust emergency plans are only effective when they are underpinned by formal security updates, travel advisories and pre-determined risk ratings. Clear processes for deciding when to go into lock-down or when to begin evacuations are imperative to ensure the safety of staff and the sustainability and security of a mine.
According to International SOS there are two main medical risk areas in West Africa – the burden of infectious diseases such as malaria, cholera, tuberculosis and HIV; and onsite medical services and evacuation capabilities.
There have been a number of fatalities and life threatening medical evacuations among expatriate workers in West Africa due to malaria. Poor pre-travel advice, not taking anti-malarial medication, no control programs on sites and inadequate diagnostic and treatment capabilities are contributers to these unwanted events.
Other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera and HIV are causing productivity issues in the workforce and need to be managed proactively through pre-employment screening and treatment programs. Many of the risks on site can be successfully mitigated through clean water programs, proper screening of employees and extended public health activities.
Following an increased need for emergency medical services in remote parts of Africa, International SOS has established offi ces and site-based clinical services in Accra (Ghana), Lagos (Nigeria), Conakry (Guinea), Monrovia (Liberia), and Freetown (Sierra Leone), among others.
The company has based a dedicated air ambulance service in Lagos to be closer to its mining clients’ West African operations. In remote areas, and particularly in countries with under-developed national medical services, on-site services need to be carefully planned to handle emergency medical events such as accident, injury or acute illness.