Mines can resume operations during the extended national lockdown. The announcement was made by Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in a media briefing about regulations pertaining to the extension of the COVID-19 lockdown.
“Mining operations shall be conducted at a reduced capacity of 50% during the period of lockdown, and thereafter at increasing capacity as determined by direction by the Cabinet member responsible for mineral resources and energy,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
She highlighted the following five conditions that the mining industry needed to adhere to when resuming operations during the extended lockdown:
- A rigorous screening and testing program must be implemented as employees return to work;
- the mining industry must provide quarantine facilities for employees who have tested positive for the COVID-19;
- data collected during the screening and testing programme must be submitted to the relevant authority;
- mining companies must make arrangements to transport their South African employees from their homes to their respective areas of operations;
- in accordance with these Regulations and other regulations applicable in neighbouring Southern African Development Community countries, workers from these neighbouring countries will be recalled at the end of lockdown in their respective countries.
“The monitoring and impact assessment of seismicity through the Council for Geoscience must be intensified with immediate effect,” she added.
Department of Minerals and Energy (DMRE) Minister Gwede Mantashe said it was important for the industry to maintain a risk-based approach. “I urge all stakeholders in the industries we regulate to respect the Regulations, as well as the directives guiding how we must systematically phase in a ramp-up of production. This will assist us in protecting employees by containing the pandemic, and ensuring this critical sector of the economy is able to operate safely and optimally.” He further added that employers and labour unions needed to engage with each other regularly, on matters directly affecting employees.
Minerals Council responds
The Minerals Council South Africa released a statement acknowledging the amendments to the Disaster Management Act regulations as they pertain to mining. The Council outlined a 10-point plan, based on a risk-based approach that is designed to ensure a preventative and mitigating approach to fighting COVID-19, which was implemented prior to the current lock-down.
In addition, the Council has completed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which encompasses all the DMRE Principles and those five conditions included in the regulations. The SOP would help to manage the phased build-up of mining operations, and the ongoing efforts to fight COVID-19 in the workplace and in communities.
“We commit the industry to the prioritisation of health and safety of employees as this phase-in gathers steam, with all the preventative and mitigating controls to fight COVID-19 in place,” said Minerals Council CEO Roger Baxter. He added that in the Minerals Council’s view, government had adopted a pragmatic and practical approach to fighting the pandemic and enabling the economy to survive the crisis. “We commit to working hard with government and organised labour in this national effort,” Baxter concluded.