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So. Africa: Mining sector moves to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak

‘South African mining sector prepares measures against coronavirus’ 17 March 2020

Platinum and gold mines in South Africa, which together make up the world’s biggest precious metals industry, are gearing up to try and minimize a local outbreak of the coronavirus that could disrupt operations where hundreds of thousands of people work in close proximity. Companies including Anglo American Platinum Ltd. and Sibanye Stillwater Ltd. are preparing a range of measures, from checking the temperature of workers before they enter narrow elevators to descend up to 2.4 miles underground to encouraging employees to find out their HIV status. They’re also distributing flu shots and changing the way statutory medical examinations are done.

…The depth of the mines makes their operating conditions unique and particularly labor-intensive. Underground, miners are exposed to high temperatures and humidity, and when they return to the surface some live in cramped hostels. While the coronavirus outbreak is still in its infancy in South Africa, with only 62 confirmed cases, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday declared a national state of disaster, implemented travel restrictions, closed schools and banned large gatherings.

…The mining industry’s experience with AIDS and tuberculosis should stand it in good stead: It has invested in health infrastructure and has experience with contact-tracing because the procedure with a tuberculosis diagnosis is similar to that of coronavirus, Balfour said.“We’re always good with a response because we have the expertise,” she said. “We will be tested but I do think we will be able to respond adequately.”

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