The relaxing of lockdown regulations has seen a gradual increase in activity within the mining industry, as some mines have resumed operations.

Last week Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced that mines can resume operating at a reduced capacity of 50% for the remaining lockdown period.

With just over a week left of the lockdown, important consideration must be taken regarding how mines will gradually increase capacity after the lockdown has ended. Dlamini-Zuma highlighted that capacity increases would be determined by Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) cabinet. Even amid the COVID-19 lockdown and containment effort, it is important that mines plan for reopening and to the surge of demand that will occur immediately afterwards.

Construction must go on, commodities must be mined, and materials be made available to rebuild the livelihoods of everyone in South Africa. This will take a concerted effort and require meticulous planning of mine management to find ways to quickly return to production and profitability.

According to Nico Pienaar from surface mining industry association ASPASA, essential maintenance is being carried out on mines during the shutdown, which should enable mines to start-up rapidly and enter production. “The quickest way to recover from the effects of the shutdown is to work together and boost production to recoup losses.”

Here are 10 suggestions by Pienaar to production post Covid-19:
  1. Examine available data to measure stockpiles and determine the expected market take-off of these
  2. Use the time during lockdown to meticulously plan a re-entry strategy
  3. Allocate resources and manpower to the mining of commodities that will be in short supply due to low stockpiles or high demand
  4. Survey customers in order to forecast their requirements upon reopening
  5. Prepare concise instruction for managers, section leaders, supervisors and staff to ensure the workforce gets behind the plans
  6. Consider production incentives to boost production and allow staff to claw-back financial losses they may have incurred
  7. Implement a communication strategy that motivates and provides simple goals and yardsticks to a) ensuring the mines survival, b) recouping lost production, c) returning to profitability, d) stretch targets
  8. Ensure that extra health, safety and environmental care is taken to prevent the further spread of the disease
  9. Monitor trade news, national and local news media, as well as social media to gain information that will assist in the response to actual requirements
  10. Reassess plans regularly to ensure production keeps trend with demand

“In this way we will be able to recover from the devastating effects of the national shutdown more quickly and ensure that we are best able to rebuild our livelihoods and contribute to the country’s economy,” he concludes.

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