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21 Jul 2020

JP Casey, Mining Technology (South Africa)

So. Africa: Mining sector experiences steep increase in number of Covid-19 infections

‘Buffalo suspends work as nearly 5,000 South African miners contract Covid-19’ 20 July 2020

South African miner Buffalo Coal has announced that it has suspended work at its Aviemore mine in South Africa, following a positive test for Covid-19 among one of its workers. The miner announced the positive test result on Saturday, which has stopped work excavating the nearly 60 million tonnes of anthracite coal beneath the mine. The news is the latest setback for the company as its second project, the Magdalena mine, has been under care and maintenance since October 2018, so the latest suspension means production across the company has ground to a halt.

“Regrettably, South Africa is experiencing a steep increase in the number of Covid-19 related infections and is now reported as having one of the highest daily infection rates per capita in the world,” said CEO Emma Oosthuizen. “Whilst the wellbeing of Buffalo Coal’s employees and their families remain the company’s biggest concern, management will continue to closely monitor the expected negative effects of Covid-19 on its operations in a responsible manner and actively continue engagements with its employees, financiers, major suppliers, and other stakeholders in this regard.”

…The country’s mining sector has been hit particularly hard, with data from the country’s Minerals Council showing that 4,874 mineworkers have tested positive for the virus, leading to 39 deaths. These deaths and illnesses have triggered a 30% year-on-year decline in the country’s mining production, casting doubt over the ability of the sector to deal with the pandemic. In response, the country’s Minerals Council dubbed July 17th ‘national day of health and safety’, and aimed to highlight a number of workplace dangers, including the spread of Covid-19. The body has also published a ‘behavioural change field guide’ to help limit the spread of the virus, as it believes that educating and empowering mineworkers to protect themselves and their co-workers to be vital to stop the spread of the virus.