How BHP has withstood COVID-19

COVID-19

BHP's Jimblebar operation in Western Australia. Image: BHP

BHP chief executive officer Mike Henry has provided insight into the immediate effects of COVID-19 on the company’s operations, and his predictions for sustained hybrid working conditions.

BHP is one of many global miners to feel the brunt of enforced absenteeism since the beginning of the pandemic, with its Escondida copper mine in Chile facing reduced output and high rates of turnover.

The company estimates that its operations are being affected by up to 15-20 per cent absenteeism.

While lockdown measures have put the company’s Australian operations under the pump – most notably in Western Australia – safe COVID-19 practices have led to more stringent vaccination rates and work-from-home initiatives.

“COVID, to some extent, forced an acceleration in some of the things that we already had underway around restructuring work, making it more flexible, opening up opportunities to a wider range of people,” Henry said at the Bank of America Securities 2022 Metals, Mining and Steel Conference.

“That’s going to be a permanent and positive feature of our landscape.”

Henry said BHP’s efforts to navigate COVID-19 have been exceptional, with the company’s recent third-quarter results showing it is on track to achieve full-year guidance in iron ore in both production and cost.

BHP has also excelled on ensuring safety on the ground, with no on-site fatalities occurring in nearly three-and-a-half years.

“I still remember it was probably only about six or seven years ago when we were celebrating one year fatality free,” Henry said.

“We had a few successive years of one year fatality free and to now have three-and-a-half years without anybody losing a life … that’s something that is seriously motivating for all of us.

“What’s driven it has been serious day in, day out management focus. Because as everybody … knows, safety, that’s a daily thing. So serious ongoing focus and commitment from management.

“And investment – investment in people, culture, asset integrity, all brought together under the BHP Operating System.”

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