So. Africa: Mining companies say lockdown will kill the industry as more employees test positive

Sibanye Stillwater Ltd Chief Executive Officer says South Africa’s mines must be allowed to run at full capacity as a national coronavirus lockdown risks crippling the industry. The government last month permitted miners to restart operations with half their normal workers amid concerns the shutdowns could damage the viability of the nation’s deep-level mines. However the CEO of Sibanye Stillwater Ltd says that this is not sufficient.  “Labor intensive mines cannot continuously operate at these levels, so they will either have to restructure or shut down,” said Froneman, whose company runs gold and platinum operations. “You can’t keep on producing at a loss.” This comes at a time when Impala Platinum (Implats) temporarily shut down its Marula mine in Limpopo Province after finding a "cluster" of positive Covid-19 cases. The MEC of Health in Limpopo has demanded that the mine must quarantine everyone.

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20 May 2020

So. Africa: Health MEC wants mining company to quarantine everyone as more workers text positive for Covid-19

Author: Russel Molefe, News 24 (South Africa)

‘Quarantine everyone, says Limpopo health MEC after 13 mineworkers test positive for Covid-19’ 16 May 2020

The Limpopo government is at loggerheads with mining houses over quarantining workers as the sector emerges as the main source of the Covid-19 pandemic in the province. Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba said in Polokwane on Saturday the government and mining houses were "failing to find each other" on the issue. This after 13 mineworkers at the Marula Platinum Mine in the Sekhukhune District tested positive for the virus. "Where we are failing to find each other is on the forceful quarantine [of workers]. We are saying testing depends on timing.

Why don't we use the same example of the Wuhan group. They were all tested before they left China, but because they have been in an area with Covid-19, we said let's quarantine them at the Ranch [Resort] for 14 days," Ramathuba said. The department is sticking with this view, even though a month ago, the Polokwane High Court ordered the release of two doctors who were forcefully quarantined at a facility in Modimolle. The Limpopo cabinet and top officials of the mining houses have been engaged in several virtual meetings over the forceful quarantine of workers for up to 14 days.

… Ramathuba insisted forceful quarantine was the only way to curb the spread of Covid-19. "People who are not complying must be isolated and this thing of self-isolation - we have seen - it doesn't work.  "The mines are saying they will quarantine those who test positive after presenting with the symptoms. But how many will test positive? We are saying from our side that everyone must be quarantined because you don't know who is infected or not," Ramathuba said. The government is expected to meet again with the mining houses on Monday.

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Article
20 May 2020

So. Africa: Mine shuts down after a number of employees test positive for Covid-19

Author: Marelise van der Merwe, News 24 (South Africa)

‘Implats closes Marula mine as 'cluster' of workers tests positive for Covid-19’ 16 May 2020

Impala Platinum (Implats) has temporarily shut down its Marula mine in Limpopo Province after finding a "cluster" of positive Covid-19 cases. In a statement on Saturday, the company said the decision had been taken following "stringent and comprehensive screening, testing and tracing protocols" that identified 19 positive cases, all of whom were asymptomatic. All the employees have been isolated and visited by Department of Health officials at the quarantine site. "Of these cases, 14 were identified as a result of proactive testing of employees returning to work. None of these employees had started work at the mine," Implats said. Of the remaining five, one was the primary contact and the remaining four were found through contact tracing.

But the company expressed concern that there could be a higher incidence of Covid-19 than initially thought. "Significantly, 17 of the confirmed cases reside locally, suggesting the prevalence of Covid-19 among local communities is far higher than the company’s initial estimates had indicated," Implats said.   The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy recently published mandatory health and safety guidelines for the mining sector for managing the coronavirus pandemic within the workplace.

The code of practice was developed following a Labour Court order in a case that had been brought by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). According to the guidelines, companies must, among other precautions, conduct a risk-based assessment of employees as they return to work.

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Article
20 May 2020

So. Africa: Mining giant CEO says mines should run at full capacity during lockdown

Author: Felix Njini, Business Report (South Africa)

‘Platinum giant say lockdown in South Africa risks killing mines’ 14 May 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa must allow South Africa’s mines to run at full capacity as a national coronavirus lockdown risks crippling the industry, according to Sibanye Stillwater Ltd. The government last month permitted miners to restart operations with half their normal workers amid concerns the shutdowns could damage the viability of the nation’s deep-level mines. That isn’t sufficient, Sibanye Chief Executive Officer Neal Froneman said in an interview on Tuesday. “Labor intensive mines cannot continuously operate at these levels, so they will either have to restructure or shut down,” said Froneman, whose company runs gold and platinum operations. “You can’t keep on producing at a loss.”

… “We are causing more harm by constraining the economy than we are impacting positively on Covid-19,” said Froneman. “We have gone too far now, we now need to get the economy to start up. South Africa’s mining industry contributed 8% of gross domestic product last year. Each employee in the sector supports at least 10 dependents, according to Minerals Council South Africa, an industry lobby group. As the country’s mining companies follow strict health protocols, including screening and testing for Covid-19, they can draw on their experience in working with employees with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, the CEO said. South Africa has the largest number of people with HIV in the world and widespread tuberculosis.

South Africa’s labor-intensive mines need to be at a minimum of 75% to 80% of capacity to be viable, Froneman said. While a weaker rand, which lowers costs for the country’s producers, and a rally in precious metals prices has provided a buffer, the mining environment threatens to deteriorate over the coming months. “We have to increase output to get back to profitability because it’s going to get even tougher,” Froneman said. “It’s going to get harder to survive over the next two quarters if we are stuck at 50%.”