Virus isolation measures in place, says Minerals Council
The Minerals Council said the plan included access to masks, sanitisers, testing kits and hardware kits, including temperature monitors. The council was also promoting influenza vaccinations. It said the mining sector had special circumstances that could make it vulnerable to the coronavirus.
“Employees congregate in areas of work and travel in close proximity. As mining often involves physical activity, there could be a high degree of exposure to the virus simply through contact with people, machinery and equipment. Mining executives and officials who visit offshore operations are at risk of contracting the virus in other countries and bringing the infection into South African mines,” said the council.
It said the potential impact of the coronavirus included the delay in exports of materials to significantly affected markets, including China. The demand for some commodities could be affected if growth in these markets was constrained or delayed, it said.
Minerals Council chief executive Roger Baxter said: “On the other hand, the price of gold would likely be supported in the context of global uncertainty.” The gold price last week hit its highest level since the start of 2013.
Mining companies have confirmed that their operations were continuing normally at present. James Wellsted, a Sibanye-Stillwater spokesperson, said there had not been any cases of the coronavirus in the regions in which the company operated. “We are alert to the risk, though, and are rolling out communications and preparing for any eventualities,” said Wellsted.
Platinum group metals producer Northam Platinum said it had not felt any effects of the coronavirus on its business. “The bulk of Northam’s metal is sold on contract. These sales have been continuing normally. Operations occasionally keep some stockpiled material on site - but it is not of the quantum needed to mitigate risks of this nature,” said a Northam spokesperson, adding that it was keeping a close watch on the situation should there be any threats to the health of its people and adverse effects to the business.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has questioned the readiness of mining houses in the eventuality of the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa, saying the industry must convene a coronavirus summit.
“The union calls on mining houses to urgently convene a coronavirus summit for the mining sector to ensure continuous evaluation of risks and concomitant action by all stakeholders,” said Amcu.