The Rustenburg-based Impala Platinum Mine in the North West has a 40 000-strong workforce. Although it has already recorded close to 2 000 infections, it has some of the strictest health and safety COVID-19 protocols to prevent its staff from getting infected by the deadly virus.

Johannes Prinsloo is the general manager for Impala’s number 16 shaft.

“Our people get ferried through our shafts from a central bus station, where they get sanitised as they get into the bus. As they disembark on the 16th shaft, that’s where they’re forming lines to get in the screening process. During the screening process, there are questions that are asked, to ensure that they don’t show any symptoms related to COVID. They also get temperature screened. After that process, they then make their way into the change house, and from there, they proceed underground,” says Prinsloo.

Dr Irene Mampa of Impala’s Medical Services says screening, testing, quarantine and isolation facilities are available for employees and their dependents.

“Initially, we had to organise our isolation facilities in an area, which we call Magareng. Magareng was an old hostel, which is adjacent to the hospital. There, we quarantine and we isolate the positive cases that are asymptomatic, people that come in, they are positive, their home conditions are not conducive, their environment is not conducive. We isolate or we quarantine them in that area,” says Mampa.

The CEO of Impala Platinum mine, Mark Munroe says they also distribute immune boosters to the neighbouring communities.

“We’ve beefed up all our medical facilities. We have a full hospital here, with isolation, quarantine facilities available for all our people. So, if need be, we spot them and make use of our isolation and quarantine facilities. We also support the health of our people because the healthier you are, the more resistant you are to the effects of the virus. So, we’ve issued all our people with Vitamins C tablets. Those that require it we supplement that with Zinc and Vitamin D as well,” says Munroe.

Mining union, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is confident that with this level of cooperation between all stakeholders, infections will be reduced.

“Since we were closed for Christmas break, we worked with the company so that we discuss how we are going to restart up. Within two days back, we met DMR to mitigate how we reopen. So, Impala introduced the tests, which is an antigen, which is the 15-minute test for our employees and then VCR testing, which is for 72 hours for people who might have COVID,” says AMCU’s Tumelo Mogami.

Mines are currently operating at 100% capacity and have been urged to follow COVID-19 protocols.