Extractive industry operations increase the potential for contact between wildlife and human populations. Such contact is a major risk factor for the emergence of infectious diseases. The Centre on Global Health Security’s Infectious Disease Risk Assessment and Management (IDRAM) initiative is supporting the extractive industry to understand, assess and mitigate this risk.
The extractive industry, through its operations, brings about changes in local environmental, social and economic conditions that increase the potential for contact between wildlife, livestock and human populations, facilitating the spread of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs). The ongoing West Africa Ebola outbreak has shown how EID outbreaks can suspend of shutdown extractive projects. The industry therefore has a direct interest in building prevention strategies and strengthening the response capacity of national health systems.
Through the IDRAM Initiative, Chatham House aims to facilitate dialogue between the extractive industry and international development actors, finance institutions, national governments and public health stakeholders. Actors that do not often come together are encouraged to find a sense of common purpose and identify their roles and responsibilities in assessing, managing and tackling the risk of EIDs. Chatham House facilitates this process by developing tools, and generating evidence, to enable the extractive industry to better prepare for these events.
IDRAM regularly runs simulation exercises that allow those working in the extractive sector to gain experience of the risks associated with EID outbreaks. These exercises illustrate how outbreaks can challenge business operations; the sessions foster discussion of how collaboration with national health systems can create appropriate and successful response strategies.
As part of its evidence-generating activities, IDRAM has recently completed a qualitative study exploring the mining industry’s understanding and perceptions around EID risk assessment and management. The study findings complement EID preparedness self-assessment tools developed by USAID that companies can use to improve risk assessment on mining sites.
IDRAM is currently evaluating the economic impact of the West Africa Ebola outbreak on selected mining companies and building an evidence base for investment in controlling and preventing EID outbreaks. The project will also involve a study investigating barriers and facilitators which influence the development of integrated outbreak response plans between extractive companies and public health sectors.