Coronavirus: SA Mines to Gradually Resume Operations

“We seeking to avoid a sudden significant rush of people back to work at the end of the lockdown and we also seeking to be influenced by the health data and the work of scientists and professionals that are advising us on this issue."

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open cut mine
open cut mine. Alf Manciagli / Shutterstock.com

Government has begun the process of bringing certain industries on stream in an orderly manner, including that of mining, in a phased approach to easing the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.

To this effect, government has amended the Disaster Management Regulations governing the lockdown to include a number of industries as essential trade.

Through this amendment, certain sectors will return to operation under strictly controlled conditions.

“I am confident that these amendments initiates and lay the foundation for the risk-adjusted measures the President announced last week.  In the coming days, the proposals already made by various stakeholders will be considered in our planning for the enablement of the recovery of the economy,” said Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Dlamini-Zuma said this at a virtual media briefing of the National Command Council on COVID-19. At Thursday’s briefing, several Ministers briefed the nation on regulations pertaining to the extension of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said key among the sectors that will gradually return to operation is the mining sector.

“In the amendment, we are identifying a risk, particularly, in deep mines. If they are left alone for a long time, the stability of the ground is tampered with, and secondly, gases accumulate or there will be prevalence of seismicity and rock falls.

“That’s why we are saying we must allow a situation of phasing in the recall of workers to work in those mines and deal with the ramping-up of productivity in those mines,” said Mantashe.

This Mantashe said, will minimise the risk of accidents and disasters in mines, as production will be incremental and is estimated to continue well into the month of May.

The Minister added that collieries that supply power utility Eskom, are operational.

“Mining operations, excluding collieries that supply Eskom, shall be conducted at a reduced capacity of 50% during the period of the lockdown, and thereafter at increasing capacity as determined by the Cabinet member responsible for mineral resources and energy. We must maintain a risk-based approach,” said Mantashe.

Adherence to strict conditions

The phased-in approach will take place under strict conditions.

These include screening and testing of returning miners. The industry is also expected to set up quarantine sites for miners and supply transport for returning miners.

On screening and testing, Mantashe said mines must integrate their system to the national system.

If COVID-19 cases are found, these must be reported to the Health Department and form part of the national tally.

In this regard, Mantashe said the industry has indicated its commitment to fight COVID-19.

Additions to essential services

Other sectors that will return to work include artisanal trade for emergency repair work, store and hardware vehicle repairs for people involved in essential services.

The call centres of retailers providing short-term insurance cover, information and communications technology (ICT) services rendered to entities and institutions will also return to work.

Additionally, call centres necessary to provide health, safety, social support, government and financial services, debt restructuring for consumers of retailers, and access to short-term insurance policies as a result of reduced income or loss of income have been introduced as essential services.

Trades necessary for the rendering of emergency repair work, including plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, glaziers, roof repair work and emergency automobile repairs for persons rendering essential services and for public transport vehicles  will be permitted to operate in terms of these regulations.

Commissioners of the South African Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, the Public Protector and Deputy Public Protector and the Independent Electoral Commission are also included as essential services.

Assessing risk

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel said the government is looking at a risk-adjusted approach in the period ahead.

This as President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a two-week extension of the initial 21-day lockdown to end of April.

“We are looking at a risk-adjusted approach to the period ahead where the lockdown is enforced-based on the risk adjustment and the information we get from both the medical professionals and the security information that we get,” said Patel.

Patel added that the government is seeking to avoid a sudden rush of people back to work at the end of the lockdown.

“We seeking to avoid a sudden significant rush of people back to work at the end of the lockdown and we also seeking to be influenced by the health data and the work of scientists and professionals that are advising us on this issue,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za

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