Government has published new proposed safety guidelines for mines operating during the coronavirus lockdown period.

They will require that mineworkers be screened, tested, kept further apart and provided with protective gear.

South Africa is gradually restarting the operations of its biggest export industry, which had been shut down in a nationwide lockdown.

In April, the authorities relaxed regulations to allow mines to operate at 50% capacity.

However, labour unions have since won a court case against the government, forcing it to impose stricter safety guidelines.

The guidelines will be open for public comment until on Thursday before they are implemented.

In the video below, Tharisa Mine management is accused of not adhering to lockdown regulations:

New mandatory regulations

The new mandatory regulations that the Mines Department has proposed will require companies to keep workers further apart, supply them with protective equipment, disinfect their transportation and accommodation as well as screen and test them for illness.

The companies should also identify those with pre-existing conditions and provide flu vaccinations.

The industry, which employs about 500 000 people, has already implemented some safety measures including setting up shared quarantine facilities for workers that test positive for the virus.

In the video below, Lurco Group CEO Ellington Nxumalo speaks about how mines are coping during lockdown:

SA mines work together

At the end of April, South African mining companies said they were setting up shared quarantine facilities for miners testing positive for COVID-19. They were also discussing other ways to cooperate, as the vital national industry gradually restarts operations halted since late March.

Sibanye Stillwater, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Gold Fields turned to social media, radio stations and newspapers to offer guidance to employees on how to prevent the coronavirus spreading.

Sibanye said it was converting some of its worker hostels in the West Rand, the Free State and Rustenburg into quarantine facilities and would make them available to employees of other companies who had been diagnosed with the virus.

“We are partnering with AngloGold and Harmony to share hostel facilities,” Sibanye’s senior vice president of investor relations, James Wellsted, told an online media briefing.

The briefing was organised by the Minerals Council of South Africa, a group representing the country’s top mining firms.

AngloGold Ashanti’s group health vice president, Bafedile Chauke, said mining firms were discussing other ways to work with each other to ensure the health and safety of employees returning to work.

AngloGold is already partnering with petrochemicals major Sasol to increase production of sanitisers and has offered to share the cost of manufacturing bulk storage tanks for sanitiser.

Below is an infographic on COVID-19 lockdown level 4:

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Additional reporting SABC News