So. Africa: Govt. publishes new mandatory COVID-19 code of practice for mining companies as cases continue to rise and unions demands all employees to be tested

On the 19th of May, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy announced the guidelines which require miners to implement a code of practice to mitigate and manage the outbreak of COVID-19. It said a failure by employers to prepare and implement a code would constitute a criminal offence but did not specify any penalties. The guidelines outline sterilisation, screening and testing measures, require miners provide flu vaccinations, allow physical distances of 1-2m and provide relevant PPE for areas of mass transit or close contact. This as AngloGold Ashanti Ltd reported 164 cases of the novel coronavirus among its workers at a gold mine raising new questions about how to prevent the virus from spreading in deep underground mines. Last week, Impala Platinum revealed that a "cluster" of 19 cases of Covid-19 had been detected at its Marula mine in Limpopo. The infections were detected during screening and protocols required by government. Some mining union have demanded that all mining companies with infections be closed while other demand that all employees be tested.

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Article
27 May 2020

So. Africa: Govt. publishes new mandatory code of practice for mining companies

Author: Mining Journal (South Africa)

‘South Africa gazettes new COVID-19 guidelines as cases increase’ 20 May 2020

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy announced the guidelines yesterday, which require miners to implement a code of practice to mitigate and manage the outbreak of COVID-19. It said a failure by employers to prepare and implement a code would constitute a criminal offence but did not specify any penalties. The guidelines outline sterilisation, screening and testing measures, require miners provide flu vaccinations, allow physical distances of 1-2m and provide relevant PPE for areas of mass transit or close contact.

…The new rules come as the number of COVID-19 cases in the industry has almost doubled, from 23 on Friday to 41 yesterday, according to the Minerals Council South Africa. It had announced the industry's first death due to COVID-19 last week and said it understood most of the cases at the time were not as a result of on-mine transmission. Impala Platinum has since suspended Marula due to a cluster of 19 cases "at and around" the platinum group metals operation in the Limpopo province.

…"The Minerals Council believes the industry will be comfortable about observance of the guidelines," it said yesterday. Resources minister Gwede Mantashe has conducted unannounced visits to mining operations to monitor compliance with lockdown regulations. The country employs about 500,000 people in the mining industry. South Africa has 17,200 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 312 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University today

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Article
27 May 2020

So. Africa: Mine union calls for the shutdown of all mines in Limpopo province due to raising number Covid-19 cases

Author: Sibongile Khumalo, Fin24 (South Africa)

“An even bigger fight underground: The battle against Covid-19 in SA's mines” 21 May 2020

In the belly of the earth in South Africa, thousands of mine workers toil. Stretching up to four kilometres beneath the surface, these are some of the deepest mines in the world. And here, the fight against the coronavirus – already an uneasy task – takes on a different meaning. Barely a month after a limited return to production, infections have started rolling in, sparking anxiety among executives and unions alike.

"Covid-19 is potentially a manageable challenge, but it is more challenging in an environment such as mining," said David Rees, Emeritus Professor Occupational Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of the Witwatersrand. Last week, Impala Platinum revealed that a "cluster" of 19 cases of Covid-19 had been detected at its Marula mine in Limpopo. The infections were detected during screening and protocols required by government.

…Moreover, a cage that takes workers to their underground workstations can take between 100-150 people, who will spend hours toiling in confined spaces. Baleni suggested that companies which are already operating with 50% personnel may need to reschedule their shifts to allow for adequate physical distancing in buses that transport workers to mines to cages that go underground. "I foresee a human resources nightmare for companies, but companies have to adhere to these regulations in order to protect lives." Concerned about the rising number of infections among mine workers at site in Limpopo, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has called for the shutdown of all mines in the province.

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Article
27 May 2020

So. Africa: Mining company shuts down after 164 employees test positive for Covid-19

Author: Siphiwe Sibeko, The Globe & Mail

‘AngloGold Ashanti shuts South African mine after 164 workers test positive for COVID-19’ 24 May 2020

AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. has reported 164 cases of the novel coronavirus among its workers at a gold mine in South Africa, raising new questions about how to prevent the virus from spreading in deep underground mines. The cases were discovered at Mponeng, the world’s deepest mine, where operations extend as far as four kilometres beneath the Earth’s surface. In response, the company has temporarily closed the mine and begun tracing the contacts of those who tested positive, using an electronic tracking system. It says the “vast majority” of those who tested positive are showing no symptoms of illness.

About 450,000 people are employed in South Africa’s mining sector. The country is among the world’s biggest producers of gold and platinum. To help protect workers from the virus that causes COVID-19, South Africa’s underground mines were limited to 50 per cent of normal capacity when they were allowed to reopen in mid-April after the first phase of the country’s lockdown. But many mining companies have been pushing for a full reopening, saying they cannot be profitable at half-capacity.

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Article
27 May 2020

So. Africa: Mining union calls on all mines to test all workers for Covid-19

Author: Donna Slater, Mining Weekly (South Africa)

‘AMCU calls for testing of all employees at affiliated workplaces’ 25 May 2020

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has again called on employers to test all employees for Covid-19 as the pandemic continues to spread across South Africa. AMCU notes that while it has consistently called for the testing of all workers, the official stance of government and employers has been to only test workers who fail the screening process.

…Although AMCU welcomes the opening of the economy, it says there remain serious concerns about the safety and welfare of workers as South Africa moves to Alert Level 3 of the national lockdown. AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa says many workers are facing economic hardship as a result of the national lockdown. “It is important that they are enabled to return to work so that they can look after their families and their loved ones.”

…However, the union contends that when the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) attempted to avoid the setting of minimum standards, AMCU took it to court, resulting in the DMRE being ordered to issue national minimum standards for the mining and energy sectors by May 18.

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