We have preparedness and response plans at all our sites to protect local communities, the environment and our business from emergencies. In Cuba, we work with state agencies to coordinate response planning.
Cuba is geographically situated in the path of hurricanes that can have devastating impacts. Studies indicate that more than two million of the country’s 11 million people are vulnerable to disasters, such as flooding, the rupture or overflow of dams, collapsed housing or landslides. In addition, increased seismic activity has been recorded in the eastern region of the island, near the Moa mine site.
These factors have led to the accumulation of expertise in Cuba for managing hurricanes and other disasters – from preparation to response to recovery – that has been recognized by international organizations. For example, after examining Cuba’s approach, Oxfam America suggests that strengthening community capacity, coordinating local actors and investing in social capital – which Cuba does significantly – are determinate factors in effectively reducing the risks of a catastrophic event.
Cuba’s National Civil Defense, the institution responsible for disaster-relief planning, has effectively implemented a preparedness system for disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods, storm surges and other possible events. This system includes an early-warning mechanism, which entails ensuring the correct behaviour of citizens when it comes to following instructions, preparing for evacuation and other important measures that are essential to preserving lives.
The success of Cuba’s disaster preparation and mitigation efforts is confirmed by results. While material losses have been high, the number of casualties has been minimal (e.g., in November 2001, five people died in Hurricane Michelle, which was the most powerful storm to hit the island since 1944), largely due to the well-coordinated efforts of National Civil Defense leadership, the Ministry of Public Health, local government institutions, and local and national media. Educating the public about hurricanes is an ongoing priority, with TV programming, national drills, workshops, seminars, instruction and competitions for schoolchildren, and, for first responders, continuing reviews and procedural updates.
This was underscored during 2016’s Category 4 Hurricane Matthew. The response by the Cuban Civil Defense in the prevention of loss of life was commended by then-UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. It was demonstrated again in 2017 with the arrival and impact of Hurricane Irma.
The Cuban system of preparation and evacuation is based on a few fundamental principles, namely:
These factors have helped ensure that our mining and energy businesses in Cuba operate in an environment where emergency response capacity is well developed and well integrated into the risks facing the most vulnerable members of the community across the island.