As we respond to COVID-19 our focus remains on keeping our people safe and well, maintaining reliable operations and supporting our communities.
We have taken the first steps to minimise the impact on our business. We have acted to protect our strong financial position, reducing capital and exploration expenditure, suspending our on-market share buy-back and commencing a group wide review aimed at delivering a reduction in controllable costs.
We have entered this period of volatility with a strong balance sheet. With the actions we are taking, the fact we have no term debt, and our access to an undrawn US$1.5B revolving credit facility, we're in a strong position to weather the uncertainty.
To position ourselves to emerge strongly on the other side, we continue our work to reshape and improve our portfolio, forming the Ambler Metals Joint Venture, progressing the sale of South Africa Energy Coal and maintaining momentum at Hermosa.
Maintaining safe and reliable operations is important for all our stakeholders and we continue to implement social distancing practices, enhanced hygiene measures, health checks and new ways of working.
This will be a long journey for everyone, including our host communities, and we will work tirelessly with them to combat COVID-19. We’ve established a South32 Global Community Investment Fund, contributing US$7 million to the areas that need it most. So far our support has included provision of water, essential hygiene and medical supplies, public health awareness and education campaigns, building capacity in local health care systems and supporting those who are unable to access critical goods and services. We have also donated to the Solidarity Fund in South Africa and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Foodbank and Lifeline in Australia.
A message from our CEO, Graham Kerr - 28 March 2020
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve, we’ve seen a number of new developments this week, including government policy decisions, which have had flow-on effects to our business.
On Thursday, 28 March a 21-day nationwide lockdown aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 commenced in South Africa. This has resulted in our South African manganese ore mines and manganese smelter moving into care and maintenance.
Hillside Aluminium and South Africa Energy Coal (domestic production) will continue to operate during the lockdown given their importance to the sustainability of South Africa’s national power network. In allowing Hillside to remain operational, the government also acknowledged that it’s not possible to safely put it into care and maintenance for such a short period, or at such short notice.
Colombia also went into lockdown this week, with Cerro Matoso continuing to operate with government approval. In Australia, border closures for many states and territories are now in place.
Around the world our teams are adapting to a variety of new ways of working. Where our people can work from home, they are doing so. Those needed on site to continue safe and stable operations have implemented social distancing measures including modified rosters, Team A/B working, staggered shift start times, and a reduced fly-in, fly-out workforce, as well as increased hygiene measures.
While these are difficult times, I know we are doing everything we can to get through this.
Stay safe everyone.
Our teams are working hard to minimise the risks presented by COVID-19.
Our response is built around three areas – keeping our people safe and well, maintaining safe and reliable operations, and supporting our communities.
Here’s some of the measures we’ve implemented to ensure our workforce remains well:
Increased social distancing
- We are alternating time in and out of the office or site; working from home; making changes to site rosters and pre-start meetings; staggering shift start times to reduce the amount of people at pre-start meetings and reducing our fly-in, fly-out workforce wherever possible.
Increased site surveillance and hygiene measures
- We have increased measures including temperature screening pre-flight for our fly in / fly out operations, as well as at points of entry. We are continuing to raise awareness of priority hygiene measures with our people and communities.
Identifying and protecting high-risk people
- We are identifying high-risk members of our workforce and our communities and supporting them to ensure their risk of exposure is minimised.
- We have introduced a total ban on international travel for business and a ban on non-essential domestic travel.
- We are also strongly encouraging our employees to defer personal travel, both domestic and international.
- In addition, employees and contractors who return from personal international travel will be excluded from the workforce for 14 days and those returning from domestic travel are required to self-monitor for symptoms.
Here’s some of the ways we’re supporting our communities and suppliers:
Supporting our communities
- We are contributing US$5 million to our communities, to the areas that need it most. We are working with local authorities and non-government partners to supply water, essential hygiene and medical supplies; run public health education campaigns; and support those at risk who are unable to access critical goods and services.
Supporting our suppliers
- We are engaging with our suppliers regularly to understand the impact on their businesses and working with them to help mitigate these where we can. This includes fast-tracking payments on a case-by-case basis.
We continue to provide regular updates to our workforce and are aligning our actions with advice from governments and health authorities.
These are testing times for us all, and never have our values of care and togetherness been more important.
As the impact of COVID-19 spreads around the world, we continue to monitor the situation and prepare for the period ahead. Our focus remains on protecting our people, supporting the communities we’re part of and ensuring the resilience of our business.
We are providing regular updates to our employees and contractors and aligning our actions with advice from governments and health authorities.
- All non-essential work-related travel has been postponed and we are encouraging our employees to defer personal travel, both domestic and international; and
- Employees and contractors who return from international travel will be excluded from the workforce for 14 days and those returning from domestic travel will be required to self-monitor for symptoms.
Offices and Operations
- Each location where we have a presence is affected differently. We are implementing tailored Business Continuity Plans for each of our operations and offices, focusing on the safety of our people and maintaining safe and reliable operations; and
- We are implementing social-distancing measures including remote working where possible.
- We have maintained our focus on good hygiene practices and encouraged our people to do the same;
- We are asking people not to come to work if they are unwell or believe they have come into contact with the virus; and
- We are identifying those of our colleagues who are in high-risk health categories and working with them to ensure their health and wellbeing.
- We understand this is a time of uncertainty and we are encouraging our employees to look out for each other, as always; and
- We continue to offer our employees and their families support through our employee assistance program.
We all have a role to play in this challenging time, and we continue to live our values of care and togetherness as we support each other through these uncertain times.
A message from our CEO, Graham Kerr - 18 March 2020
As COVID-19 continues to have an impact around the world, we are working hard to do all that we can to protect our people, support the communities we work with, and ensure the resilience of our business.
This situation is unlike anything many of us have experienced in our lifetimes. There is uncertainty about what the weeks and months ahead look like, and we will face our share of challenges.
Each location where we have a presence is affected differently. We are implementing tailored plans for every operation and office, focusing on the health and safety of our people, supporting local communities, and continuing safe and reliable operations.
We are seeing volatility in the markets for our commodities and there’s no predicting how long this will last. But, we have built a company that is resilient. We are focused on what we can control and we are working together to continue safely running our operations for the benefit of all.
I have always been proud to see how the South32 team pulls together as a company and we will do the same in the period ahead.
Stay safe everyone.