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June 03, 2020

Local entrepreneurs supply protective masks to Rosebel

One of the objectives of Rosebel Goldmines (RGM) is to make a sustainable contribution to the socio-economic development of communities near the mine site. The best way to achieve this is to stimulate employment by helping local residents to achieve economic self-sufficiency over time. A 2019 community initiative to help develop marketable skills and experience led by the Community Relations Department (CRD) bore more fruit this year when local villagers were asked to supply protective masks for RGM.

Since there is no local transmission of COVID-19 in Suriname, the health authorities have advised that not everyone needs to put on a protective mask. However, RGM's Medical Department identified the need to protect employees who, due to the nature of their work, cannot always maintain a safe distance of at least 1.5 m from other people. These include staff of Logistics & Security at the Paramaribo bus stop and at the Main Gate or in departments that have direct contact with people coming in from outside Rosebel.  

While RGM could have sourced the masks from overseas, it chose to have them made in Marshallkreek – a community near the mine site – instead. Thanks to its earlier initiative to train local villagers to manufacture PPE clothing (coveralls) for the operation, the CRD was able to identify skilled entrepreneurs who could supply 1,000 'non-medical' mouth caps (or masks) for RGM*. They chose Helen Robert and Rita Darius, both residents of Marshallkreek, who stood out during last year's training. Currently, Helen and Rita are using their sewing machines to manufacture the masks.

"They're little masks, but a lot of work goes into them," says Helen, as she works on a blue face mask. "It's precision work." Rita nods in agreement. The first batch of 478 masks has already been delivered; the second batch is now being completed. 

Helen is also able to transfer her knowledge, in case this project gets bigger and more skilled hands are needed. She finds it "great" to make face masks and to receive financial support.

*The Medical Department emphasizes that these masks are not suitable for sick people, but do offer a certain degree of protection, thanks to a double layer of fabric (flannel and cotton). 

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