'Quarantine workers from epicentres of the pandemic'
JOHANNESBURG - The government has encouraged the mining industry to quarantine mine workers from epicentres of the Covid-19 pandemic in a bid to curb infections in communities.
Chief inspector of mines David Msiza told the mineral resources and energy portfolio committee yesterday that the provisions in regulations that were published by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) required employees from areas with high cases of the pandemic to be quarantined for 14 days before they returned to work.
“The regulations that were gazetted in terms of the Disaster Management Act also require mines to have quarantine facilities. Some of the mines have quarantined some of the people who were found to have Covid-19,” Msiza said, adding that mines had complied with regulations.
“After President Ramaphosa announced what the government's approach would be to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been making unannounced visits to the mines. Generally, we have seen that the sector has protocols in place.
"Companies do provide personal protective equipment, they also provide sanitisers to their employees. One of the things we said is that they need to do more testing, hence the case at Marula Mine,” Msiza said.
Last week, Impala Platinum reported 19 confirmed Covid-19 cases in and around the Marula platinum mine in Limpopo, including 14 employees who were reporting back to work, a local health provider, and four mine-employed health providers working at the mine clinic.
The Mine Health and Safety Council chief executive, Thabo Dube, told the committee that there were 41 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the industry. Stating data from the Minerals Council South Africa, Dube said around 168000 mineworkers had been screened and 1466 had been tested.
“In terms of the number of deaths, we have 2 so far,” said Dube. The council, however, reported the first death of an industry employee as a result of Covid-19 on Friday.
Yesterday, the DMRE issued guidelines developed to provide a framework to mitigate and manage the Covid-19 outbreak among employees in South African mines and any other persons they may contact in the community.
The guidelines require employers to develop a Code of Practice (COP) on Covid-19, standard operating procedures for health and safety as well as develop a policy or integrate Covid-19 management into the existing mine’s policies. “The mine’s COP and procedure must include a dedicated 24-hour hotline which employees will use to reach the mine’s dedicated healthcare workers or the mine’s contracted service of healthcare workers assigned to assist with Covid-19, and a procedure to report when an employee is sick or experiencing symptoms of Covid-19,” said the directive.
Earlier this month the Labour Court ordered that Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe issue guidelines requiring employers to prepare a code of practice for the prevention and management of the Covid-19 outbreak.