Sumitomo halts mines in Bolivia, Madagascar

San Cristobal mine is ranked among the world’s biggest producers of zinc, lead and silver. (Image courtesy of Minera San Cristobal)

Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. became on Thursday the latest major diversified miner to temporarily suspend operations at some of its mines to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The measure affects the company’s San Cristobal silver-zinc-lead mine in Bolivia and Ambatovy nickel mine in Madagascar, as all-day or night curfews have been imposed in those countries.

It excludes any facilities that require continuous operation, such as power plants.

San Cristobal is the world’s fourth-largest zinc mine by output and the No.6 zinc producer, according to Sumitomo.

Bolivia declared on Wednesday a national health emergency and extended its borders lockdown to April 15 from March 31. It has also tightened restrictions on movement, permitting only one person per household to go out between the hours of 7 am and noon on weekdays.

At least two cities in Madagascar have been in strict lockdown since March 20 and any transport, except for goods, is forbidden.

There are now more than 2,400 confirmed cases of covid-19 across Africa, and growing warnings that the pandemic will cause major challenges for the continent’s under-resourced health services sector.