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MRDL fights COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan by Sun Fang,April 20, 2020 Adjust font size:

A subsidiary of the China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC Group) known as MCC Resources Development Co. Ltd. (MRDL) has been involved with Pakistan’s Saindak Copper-Gold Project ever since a 10-year lease was signed in 2002. The company is currently in the middle of its third five-year renewal period, which will continue until 2022. The sudden COVID-19 outbreak has put great pressure on the project’s team this year. Many prevention and control measures have been implemented in order to ensure that operations continue in a safe manner and as scheduled.

Strict pandemic prevention and control measures

MRDL notified all of its employees to enhance their awareness of prevention and control techniques, engage in self-prevention measures, and develop good health habits. Special emphasis was put on staff who were vacationing in China’s Hubei province.

The company is cognizant of the underdeveloped medical conditions in Pakistan and its inability to effectively contain the COVID-19 pandemic and has, therefore, stockpiled masks, protective suits, disinfectant, thermometers, and other prevention materials in order to fight against it.

MRDL also established a leading group that is in charge of prevention and control efforts. It is responsible for disseminating relevant information, creating WeChat groups that include employees and contact people, and holding meetings with management staff in Pakistan. The company has also apprised local tribal leaders, Frontier Corps (FC), and other people of the latest conditions and trends that may emerge. Arrangements have been made for employees to return to work after operations were temporarily suspended as a result of the outbreak, and their health statuses have been monitored. Pandemic prevention and control information has also been provided to residents of nearby villages.

Combating COVID-19 in a cooperative manner

Prevention and control efforts have become increasingly important at the Saindak Copper-Gold Project site in Pakistan as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens.

MCC Group Vice President Zhang Ye recently held a videoconference with MDRL management, project leaders, and other employees, and they discussed how to conduct operations in a safe manner.

The company established a pandemic prevention and control department that consists of a special office, a production safety working group, a comprehensive prevention and control working group, a medical working group, and a supervision working group and also incorporates border guards and tribal leaders. Tasks and responsibilities are assigned accordingly to ensure the effective implementation of the various measures that have been devised.

MRDL began limiting the flow of vehicles and pedestrians in and out of the site on March 26, and security personnel, FC soldiers, and tribal police currently guard every entrance. All vehicles are prohibited from entering or leaving the area without a pass issued by the company’s pandemic prevention and control office, with the exception of vehicles transporting production materials and supplies for daily life, and must be fully disinfected and registered. Specially-assigned staff unload shipments as quickly as possible, and drivers are not allowed to get out of their vehicles.

MRDL managers spoke with the heads of tribes and villages about restricting transportation, and they decided to close the roads in the residential areas around the project site in order to encourage people to stay home.

The tribe and village heads helped the company barricade village roads with construction equipment, and one main road thoroughfare was left open for essential traffic.

Local citizens need to provide personal information and get permission from village heads if they need to leave their villages in order to attend to urgent matters and must engage in self-quarantines in their homes and monitor their temperatures on a daily basis after they return.

Staff members work at an access checkpoint of the hospital at the Saindak Copper-Gold Project site. Special pandemic prevention and control measures have been implemented at the facility. (Photo courtesy of MCC Resources Development Co. Ltd.)

MRDL established joint pandemic prevention teams in every village that help village leaders implement various containment measures, and four local employees are on duty at any given time. They are equipped with two-way radios and report to the company’s pandemic prevention and control office on a daily basis. Many measures have been implemented in the greater Saindak Copper-Gold Project area in order to ensure that safety is maintained at the site and in surrounding villages.

Medical conditions are undeveloped in the region, and employees and other residents who live near the project site tend to have poor hygiene habits. MRDL has printed a large number of brochures and fliers and has conducted real-time bilingual broadcasts in English and Urdu that include information about the virus and how it is transmitted, personal hygiene guidance, up-to-date facts and data, and other details, which has greatly improved people’s awareness of pandemic prevention techniques and has helped the company advance various containment measures.

MRDL assigned one of its employees to communicate with the local government and view the information online in order to stay abreast of the latest updates and sentiment related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The staff member is able to obtain real-time information about the nature of the pandemic in Pakistan, including the number of people who are currently under quarantine, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections in the country, and the number of people who are currently waiting for nucleic acid tests. Then the company formulates and adjusts prevention measures based on the information that it receives.

The pandemic caused MRDL to begin engaging in closed management on March 15. Discussions resulted in the implementation of the following measures:

All entrances and exits at the project site have been temporarily closed;

Pakistani employees who usually live in nearby villages have moved to the project site until further notice is given;
Joint pandemic prevention teams that are currently living and working in the village should continue to stay in the village and help village heads execute pandemic prevention and control measures;

And a security team was established that consists of 38 employees who are familiar with the terrain and 33 FC soldiers and police officers, and it limits access to the four main entrances to the project site with the help of a motorcycle patrol party.

MRDL President Zhang Zhijun donates pandemic prevention supplies to a village in Pakistan. (Photo courtesy of MCC Resources Development Co. Ltd.)

The company has stockpiled enough grain, vegetables, and oil to feed 1,000 Chinese and Pakistani employees for three months.

Engaging in pandemic prevention and maintaining production

The strict pandemic prevention and control measures that have been implemented have allowed production to continue as scheduled. MDRL immediately launched an emergency first-level response when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in order to ensure the safety of its staff and to help maintain its annual production plan. An inventory of its supplies and materials was also stocked so that they could be used in an efficient manner.

MRDL suspended its plan to begin operations at a smelting plant in mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The company decided to expand its temporary copper concentrate yard so that annual crude copper output will not be affected even if production does not begin at the plant until June.

Pakistan implemented a lockdown policy as the pandemic worsened, which made it difficult to transport supplies. The company’s purchasing department, therefore, maximized its inventory of fuel reserves, explosives, and other materials according to its capacity.

COVID-19 has also had a huge impact on staff rotation. Some Chinese employees have been working in Pakistan for nearly a year as a result of project demands and the severity of the pandemic. Most Pakistani workers have been working at the project site for more than four months. MRDL has introduced incentive policies and taken other measures to ensure that operations continue and production schedules are met.

A man named Nawab is the tribal leader of Taftan, which is a town located 30 km from the Saindak Copper-Gold Project, and is in charge of the company’s outer security team. He recently issued a message that stated: “I do not want anyone to worry. I am not allowed to enter the project site at this time, but I will guard the peripheral area.”

Chariman Akbar, the tribal leader of Saindak, is an old friend of MRDL. The 80-year-old was out of town when he learned about the severity of the pandemic and immediately embarked on the 10-hour drive back in order to help manage the greater Saindak Copper-Gold Project area, ensure that everyone’s safety is maintained, and perform other important tasks for the company.


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