Union urges closure after mine's virus cases spike
JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has called for the temporary closure of mines in Limpopo after 30 Covid-19 cases were confirmed at the Dwarsrivier chrome mine in Burgersfort.
NUM, one of the biggest mining unions, said on Wednesday that it wanted law enforcement agencies to arrest the mine managers, who were apparently ignoring regulations as Covid-19 cases spiked in Limpopo.
Phillip Mankge, the union’s north-east regional secretary, said the cases recorded at Dwarsrivier had raised concerns about the rapid spread of the pandemic in Limpopo following the 19 confirmed infections at Impala Platinum’s Marula Platinum Mine.
“This is after the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) inspectors issued instructions to Dwarsrivier to test all their employees, and now when the results are coming we start to realise the gravity of this on the ground,” Mankge said, adding that the Fetakgomo Tubatse municipality should quickly return to lockdown level 5.
Earlier this month, operations at Dwarsrivier mine, a joint venture between Assmang and African Rainbow Minerals, were suspended as a precautionary measure after an employee tested positive for Covid-19.
The closure of the mine, which produced 1.55 million tons of chrome ore in the past financial year, highlighted the challenge mining firms faced as the lockdown eased and they resumed operations at half capacity.
Harmony Gold confirmed that two employees of a contractor at its Kalgold gold mine near Mafikeng in the North West had tested positive for the Covid-19 on Wednesday.
The company said the employees were isolated and receiving medical care. “The process of tracing possible contacts is under way, with all of those identified either self-quarantining or quarantining at a company facility for 14 days,” said the company.
Impala Platinum announced the temporary suspension of the Marula mine after it confirmed 19 Covid-19 cases.
Mankge said the Modikwa Platinum Mine in Limpopo had confirmed a Covid-19 case on Monday.
“Modikwa platinum mine is the only mine in the eastern belt which is still using the biometric system and a mounted breathalyser system which the Department of Health and the NUM raised concern over it, but the company refused to remove it,” he said.
The Mine Health and Safety Council’s chief executive, Thabo Dube, told Parliament’s mineral resources and energy portfolio committee on Tuesday that there were 41 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the industry. Quoting data from the Minerals Council SA, Dube said about 168 000 mineworkers were screened and 1 466 have been tested.
“In terms of the number of deaths, we have two so far,” said Dube.
The DMRE this week issued guidelines developed to provide a framework to mitigate and manage the Covid-19 outbreak among employees and any other people they may come into contact in the community.
The guidelines require employers to develop a code of practice on Covid-19, standard operating procedures for health and safety as well as a policy, or to integrate Covid-19 management into the mine’s policies.