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    Review of 'Economic impact of Ebola Virus Disease outbreak on an extractive firm: a case study'

    Economic impact of Ebola Virus Disease outbreak on an extractive firm: a case studyCrossref
    The article covers the impact of ebola on a mining company and their input to control and prevention
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    Economic impact of Ebola Virus Disease outbreak on an extractive firm: a case study

    Purpose: The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak was the most severe public health emergency in modern times. The economic impact of outbreaks has mostly been analysed at the macroeconomic level. Conversely, we aimed to estimate the economic costs of preventive measures of the outbreak to an extractive firm, ArcelorMittal, using data in the outbreak region from March 2014 to December 2015. ArcelorMittal is the worlds largest steel producer and particularly important in West Africa, where the extractive industry is economically crucial. Methods: Qualitative methods, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, were used to investigate the events and channels of impact of the outbreak on the firm, as perceived by employees and contractors. Quantitative data regarding these costs was also collected. Retrospective cost analysis estimated the actual cost of preventive methods adopted. Results: Most respondents indicated the largest cost impact was suspension of Phase II expansion, a series of projects designed to increase iron ore production in Liberia. The next largest cost was the preventive measures adopted to counter disease spread. Total costs incurred for adopting preventive measures was USD 10.58-11.11 million. The overall direct costs of preventive measures adopted within the fence shared 30-31% of the total costs incurred. The share of external donation supporting humanitarian response was 11-12% of the total costs, followed by 7-12% of relational costs. Conclusions: The firms response during the EVD outbreak focused on its employees and operations, which was later expanded to the wider community and then in supporting the international humanitarian response.

      Review information

      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      Economics of health & social care,Health & Social care,Infectious disease & Microbiology,Public health
      Liberia,Environmental economics,Africa,Sanitation, health, and the environment,economics,ebola,health economics,epidemic

      Review text

      Ebola and the extractive industry

      This paper deals with an important topic: the economic impacts of an outbreak of Ebola. It seems to be relatively rarely that the impact of a public health and medical issues of this kind on businesses is considered in any detail.

      The paper could be improved by some extra text to explain the derivation of the economic figures a little more -- if that were possible without infringing commercial confidentiality. On a very minor point of presentation I feel it would be better to display the pie chart in a simple two dimensional format. More importantly, I also wondered whether there might be more very pertinent information in the responses to the detailed questionnaire (the annex makes clear that the questions were well structured and detailed). Such an intriguing and potentially important subject deserves appropriate data mining.

      The paper could be strengthened by taking account of the following detailed points:


      Para 2: please give a few more details about the nature of the contact between wildlife and the people in the extractive industries to help the reader’s understanding.

      P7 first sentence – is it possible to say anything about the longer terms benefits that might accrue to the company for their substantive efforts in limiting the outbreak?

      P7 – the idea of considering the channels of economic impact” and the perceptions of staff seems important as in business and financial circles sentiment often counts for a lot. Perhaps this point could be brought out more.


      Materials and Methods

      Delete “Materials” – there are none. Change this section to “Methods and Approaches”

      Para 1 and para 2 make reference to “the quantitative data” and Para 1 suggests this had several sources but para 2 suggest this was all obtained from one organisational unit. This should be clarified so that para 1 and 2 are more consistent.

      Data collection and management

      There are a number of approaches to IDIs and FGDs. Could reference be made to which of the many approaches was used on these occasions? And it is not clear if notes were taken or recordings were made of the IDIs and FGDs which were later transcribed or otherwise transferred into the software used for analaysis.

      Qualitative data et seq (some attention to following headings might be needed to help the reader see what is under discussion)

      An important point arises here about the sequence of events in 2014 and 2015 with respect to the decisions involved in deciding to delay Phase II of the iron ore operations. This needs some further clarification in the text to bring out more importance of the sequence of events. Some may see the decision to delay as purely an economic decision. In fact it seems to be a result of the impacts of the Ebola outbreak causing contractors to withdraw staff or staff deciding it was too risky for them to remain especially if transport options became limited. Maybe a diagram could help set this out more clearly? This would allow the qualitative and quantitative data to be seen in a broader context.

      There seems to be some orphan text in italics at the bottom of p12 and top of p13. Please remove or clarify.

      The section at the bottom of p13 and top of p14 needs some clarification as it does not read well as currently written and this detracts from the message being conveyed. There are several concepts involved here. Perhaps the use of shorter sentences would help.

      The section at the bottom of p14 and the top of p15 would benefit from the use of shorter sentences as well.

      Bottom of p15: the terminology “peak”, “off-peak” and “super-off peak” needs a reference to support its use or more details are needed to explain what is meant. This may be a useful concept or a confusing one depending on the referencing or the explanation.

      At the top of p16 the terms upper and lower limits seem to have been transposed since less time is being spent in the “upper” case than the “lower”.

      On p16 the sub section on the supply chain is interesting but is perhaps in the wrong place. It could have a section on its own as it does not seem to be a preventative measure as such. More details of the supply chain issues could also be provided. Perhaps a clearer separation of the preventative measures and other matters could be achieved with some editing of the text.

      Last paragraph of p17– reference is made to the “fence” – it is not clear what this is referring too. Please clarify at an appropriate point in the text.

      The EPSMG receives a first mention on p21 but is not explained until p22. Some adjustment of the text is needed here to ensure the reader has a full grasp of the issues as they developed and were managed.

      Could some dates be given for the role of the company in public health matters? It is said the company responded before some other groups. It would be useful to insert dates as the basis for what is only a contention without them. Approximate dates would be sufficient. The relevant part of the paper is on p22 and p23.

      The middle para of p23 refers to the timeline of the responses but nowhere in the paper is a timeline of the outbreaks and the actions the company took set out. The paper would be improved by inclusion of such a time-line.


      Fig 1 shows that the largest group of respondents were those that identified factors grouped under “other”. This means that although just under a fifth of respondents identified Phase II expansion a major cost factor a higher percentage cited a range of other reasons. The text of the paper should give at least some examples of these reasons as these factors could still be relevant to how companies respond to health emergencies. The breadth of the responses is part of the richness of the results obtained from IDIs and FGD groups. This is often hard to capture in a paper, but here thet is a context for considering the “other” category in some detail if not a great deal or, if this is not possible, making some statement to indicate that the “other” responses were very diverse and could not be readily grouped.

      Fig 2 might be better presented as a 2D pie chart and although fencing for the concession or part of it is mentioned as a preventative measure this does not appear in the costs diagram. Some explanation for that might be needed. The legend illustrates a point that occurs elsewhere in the text: an “in” needs to be inserted before “the community” – a grammar checker may pick up relevant points in the text.

      Fig 3 contains data on costs and the largest of these relates to inputs to the eradication programme. However, this data is not referred to in the main text of the paper. Some reference to these relative costs is needed else the text will not be complete.

      Fig 4 shows the pattern of Ebola cases plus information relevant to the timeline but the quality of the text in this figure is very difficult to make out. It may be better to supply a separate timeline figure.


      Table 1 refers to 1 FGD with expat contractors but no numbers are given. It also refers to IDIs with 16 people who do not seem to be included in the data within the Table. This may explain the discrepancy between the data in the Tables and the text in terms of the numbers of respondents.

      Table 2 refers to costs but it is difficult to see how the data in the Table gives the range of figures quoted as a total. The totalling needs to be revisited. If the range of the total arises from the numbers given above then the values should be 10.58 and 11.88 (not 11.11). The main text of the paper should also state that the range arises because of uncertainty in only one element of the costs.

      Table 3 has no units for the salary costs. USD? Local currencies? A mixture?







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