File photo: Impala Platinum Holdings Limited (Implats) has temporarily suspended operations at its Marula mine in Limpopo after a number of workers tested positive for the coronavirus (Covid-19), the company said on Saturday. Picture: Supplied
File photo: Impala Platinum Holdings Limited (Implats) has temporarily suspended operations at its Marula mine in Limpopo after a number of workers tested positive for the coronavirus (Covid-19), the company said on Saturday. Picture: Supplied

Implats suspends operations at Marula mine after workers test positive for Covid-19

By African News Agency Time of article published May 16, 2020

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Johannesburg - Impala Platinum Holdings Limited (Implats) has temporarily suspended operations at its Marula mine in Limpopo after a number of workers tested positive for the coronavirus (Covid-19), the company said on Saturday.

"Implats confirms that following stringent and comprehensive screening, testing, and tracing protocols, a cluster of positive Covid-19 cases has been detected at and around its Marula operation in Limpopo province," the company said in a statement.

Implats had identified 19 positive cases during the week, all of them asymptomatic - meaning the individuals tested exhibited no apparent coronavirus symptoms. Of these cases, 14 were identified as a result of proactive testing of employees returning to work. None of these employees had started work at the mine.

Of the remaining five, one case was identified as a primary contact and the remaining four were identified through contact tracing. Two of the active cases had recently returned from the Eastern Cape. 

Significantly, 17 of the confirmed cases lived locally, suggesting the prevalence of Covid-19 among local communities was far higher than the company’s initial estimates had indicated, Implats said.

"As such, the rigorous screening and testing protocols at Marula have proved effective in quickly identifying cases, enabling the group to rapidly isolate affected employees to prevent wider infection on the mine. It was also confirmed that these cases included a local health provider and four mine-employed health providers working at the mine clinic.This facility was immediately closed for sterilisation and testing of medical staff and all primary contacts."

Every person who tested positive was immediately isolated at the mine's isolation site, at government-designated facilities, or at home, as per government protocols. Health department officials visited patients at the Implats quarantine site on Saturday morning.

Marula currently worked rotational shift cycles, with two teams alternating a week at work and a week off. Marula would not recall workers due to report for duty next week, to enable it to first complete all relevant health and safety protocols, including verifying test results, sanitising identified high-risk areas, conducting further contact tracing and testing procedures as required, and placing people in isolation and quarantine based on the outcome of the screening and testing results, Implats said.

"It is critically important that Implats identifies people who may have been the source of the infections or been in contact with affected individuals. The group is working closely with the public healthcare authorities on tracing protocols to identify all those who may have come into close contact with the affected employees and all Marula employees and contractors are complying with the relevant protocols as instituted by government. We are making the appropriate support and resources available to all our affected colleagues during what is undoubtedly a stressful time," the Implats statement said.

Implats CEO Nico Muller said: “Implats fully supports the decisive action taken by our government to help mitigate the health, labour market and economic impacts of the coronavirus. We continue to comply with the government and industry standard operating procedures related to Covid-19, as well as our own initiatives to manage this virus.

"Promoting best practice Covid-19 health guidelines in our workplace, at home, and in the community is a priority. Any Covid-19 infection is a reminder to every citizen that we must remain vigilant and continue practising appropriate social distancing and the simple but essential hygiene and infection mitigation measures.

"We thank our medical and other employees who acted swiftly to identify and isolate these individuals. We are well prepared to deal with employees that have tested positive and will be deploying all the resources available to us to protect the lives and livelihoods of our people and host communities. We wish our infected employees a speedy recovery and will continue to support them and their families through these anxious times,” Muller said. 

African News Agency (ANA), editing by Jacques Keet

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