Mining companies across the country continue to experience an escalation in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in their operations.
According to the Minerals Council, the mining sector has recorded 1 796 positive cases and six COVID-19 related deaths. Over 930 of the cases are in the North West.
Mines are hotspots for coronavirus infections in the North West. Over 450 positive cases have been recorded at the Impala Platinum Mine in Rustenburg.
Impala spokesperson Johann Theron says, “I can confirm that Impala Rustenburg Mine to date has recorded 455 positive COVID-19 cases of which 63 have recovered meaning that we’ve got currently 392 active cases. In addition to that, we’ve got 776 people presently in isolation.”
According to Theron, stringent measures have been put in place to curb the spread of infections.
“The strategy that we have employed with isolation is for all people returning to work from outside areas to first test them where we can but equally to put them in isolation for a 14-day period to ensure that before they return to work. We minimize the risk of any transmission to our workforce. The number of people that we are picking up are not necessarily people being infected at the mines but rather an indication of the general prevalence of COVID-19 among the community,” says Theron.
Nationally, the infections are escalating rapidly in the mining sector, with six COVID-19 related deaths.
Charmane Russell from the Minerals Council says, “Tests are typically undertaken when employees fail screening protocols or the report and when there have been clusters of infection outbreaks. To date, we have recorded 1 796 positive cases with about 66% being completely asymptomatic, showing no symptoms at all.”
Mineworkers’ unions say mining companies are not doing enough to curb the contagion.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) in the North West spokesperson Mere Boase says, “The mine should have actually taken the stance that if people have tested positive the section or the mine should be closed until they have a clear indication that the place is safe for workers to work but production is at the center of everything. These people do not care about the workers.”
AMCU national chairperson on health and safety Xolani Bokoloshe says, “If the government and mine owners are to save this industry, testing must be non-negotiable for the workers. We further call these companies to pay workers who have not been called full salaries because it is not their fault that the company hasn’t called them back. All mines must clean and disinfect working places, employee transport and accommodation. Proof of such must be shared with organised labour.”
Health authorities in the province say more needs to be done to curb infections from spreading to mining communities.
Health MEC Madoda Sambatha says, “Now most of the mineworkers no longer reside in hostels. They reside in communities. So they are mineworkers at work, out they are community members. Then the spread has assumed that status. If you check in Bojanala, you check schools that are highly affected and you check students that are highly affected, you find that there is a correlation between mining activities and spread in those areas.”
The Minerals Council adds that more than 600 of the mine employees who tested positive for coronavirus have recovered.
The infographic below shows the latest COVID-19 stats in SA