According to ASPASA, many people’s lives will depend on the way mines across South Africa handle the return to 100% capacity.
Experts have predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic will still be around for at least two years. As such, people and business across various industries need to adapt to a new way of life with the virus.
Every effort should therefore be made to prevent the transmission of the disease and to arrest, or at least slow its progression, in order to give the medical fraternity time to prepare an effective response. The association has called upon its members and the industry at large to adhere to COVID-19 regulations in all ways including social distancing, PPE and hygiene.
“However, managers need to take the time to study the requirements and how they apply to their own operation in order to avoid unnecessary complications and expenses. It is already clear that a large number of mine inspectors are not fully aware of requirements and are trying to insist on certain obligations and constraints that do not apply to our industry,” says Nico Pienaar, ASPASA director.
He gave an example using transport saying it is only compulsory when an operation brings back workers from the outlying areas, not for daily attendance to work. “Once the workers are back, they need to sort out their own transport as it was before the lockdown. In terms of screening, it is a requirement for all employees returning to work to be screened and only when they show signs, then they need to be tested.” He added that screening should be done frequently, some daily but not longer than five days between screening.
“Although Minister of Minerals and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, has visited a number of mines and indicated that he is reasonably happy with the handling of precautionary measures so far, we expect that there will be disputes from time-to-time. As a result, we are encouraging members to contact the association where there are disputes with inspectors so that we can contact the director general and the Minerals Council to find resolutions,” Pienaar said.
He also said the industry needed to work together to share ideas and best practices and to build a trust relationship with Government in order to overcome future challenges. Small operations must check what is available in their area, know where the doctors, clinics and hospitals are that can help. It is also important to check bigger mines for systems or capacity to assist in order to respond better if problems do arise.