Mining community reeling from Covid-19 outbreaks
A further five cases were reported at Sibanye Gold and 19 more cases at Impala Platinum’s Marula Mine in Limpopo which forced operations to be halted, while unconfirmed reports said there were a number of infections at Dwarsrivier chrome mine.
As the infections at the mines continue to increase and the government opens up the economy, the Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua) and Women Affected by Mining United in Action (Wamua) are against the move to reopen mines.
They have embarked on a campaign to collect 100 000 signatures from affected communities to demand that their concerns be heard and incorporated in the Covid-19 health and safety measures.
National coordinator for Macua Meshack Mbangula said their branches across the country would collect over 50 000 signatures by Monday.
“With the number of infections increasing drastically around mines – with about 250 already confirmed – our communities which are homes to these infected miners are angry and feel excluded. It has been a consistent practice of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to exclude communities from participating in the decisions that directly affect them.
“We have long argued that mining-affected communities are used as sacrificial lambs in the mining sector with profits going to foreign shareholders and fat-cat government perks, and now, when thousands of lives are at stake, the DMRE has once again left communities to face death and starvation to produce profits which we will never see,” Mbangula said.
Wamua national convenor Nester Ndebele said it was not surprising to see the DMRE ignoring community concerns and making it easy for mining bosses to reap profits while they face the possibility of death.
“We have been offered up as sacrificial lambs who will pay the ultimate price for the greed and avarice of the few,” Ndebele said.
The department has, however, called upon all mining operations to prioritise the health and safety of mineworkers and other persons who may be directly affected by the operations at mines.
The mining sector was part of the industries that were shut down during level 5 lockdown while those supplying coal to Eskom remained operational.
With the easing of regulations, Minister Gwede Mantashe said prior to ramping up, all mining operations were required to prepare and implement a mandatory code of practice for the mitigation and management of Covid-19.
“Failure to do so will be regarded as a criminal offence and a bridge of the Mine Health and Safety Act. We believe that the directive to all mining operations to ensure safe start-up procedures and the systematic phasing-in of workers will allow the sector to operate safely and optimally.
“The department continues to monitor compliance through regular unannounced and scheduled visits to mining operations. Following the unannounced visits, we discovered that not all operations are at the same level of compliance. Most of them were doing well up to screening but lagging on testing,” Mantashe said.
“Our insistence on screening and testing of all persons at mines has enabled us to detect the virus in various mining areas. The more we test, the more we become aware of the extent of the problem and the location thereof. We urged all mining operations to pull their resources together and share testing and quarantine facilities.”