The mining industry has vaccinated, or partially vaccinated, 203 007 employees and contractors in South Africa – that is about 45% of the workforce.
Of that total, 49% have been now been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The industry has set itself a target of achieving 80% vaccination by the middle of November this year. Some companies have already started reporting between 70% and 80% vaccination levels at some sites, and Minerals Council South Africa CEO Roger Baxter said the goal was “absolutely attainable”.
Baxter drew specific attention to the leadership role played by organised labour, which had been critical in advocating for vaccinations among employees and supporting the company-based roll-out programmes.
Involved organised labour include the Association of Construction and Mineworkers Union (AMCU), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and UASA.
“Union leadership has played a highly constructive role, with many union leaders visiting vaccination sites, getting vaccinated, and also sharing their personal experiences of Covid-19 and vaccinations,” Baxter said during the virtual event on Thursday.
“This has truly been a massive mining industry effort, with unprecedented levels of cooperation between companies, with the Minerals Council, with national and regional departments of health, with the Department of Minerals Resources and Energy and the Chief Inspector of Mines, with business entities such as Business for South Africa (B4SA), and of course our mining unions,” he enthused.
To date, 52 workplace sites have been registered under the Department of Health’s workplace vaccination programme, with many more outreach and temporary facilities operating.
Companies that have fewer than 4 000 employees have teamed up with private companies and provincial departments of health to offer on-mine vaccination, while others have been served by a number of larger companies that have availed their facilities.
“Not only has the industry established vaccination sites under strict guidelines, it has also embarked on extensive education and communication campaigns both amongst employees and community members,” said Baxter.
Meanwhile, companies have started to vaccinate employees’ dependants and community members, either at company sites or by supporting neighbouring facilities.
“While we know that vaccinating as many employees and community members as possible will reduce transmission of Covid-19 and prevent serious illness and death, we know that we need to continue to be vigilant and continue to practice all the non-medical interventions that we have developed since the start of the pandemic,” Baxter said.
Up until September 22, the South African mining industry had conducted more than 287 000 Covid-19 tests, which Minerals Council health head Dr Thuthula Balfour said was “double that of the national average”.
From these tests, a total of 51 084 people tested positive, with only 424 of these still active.
The industry has lost 690 lives to the Covid-19 pandemic, which gives it a fatality rate of about 1.3%.
Taking into account the first, second and third waves of infection, Balfour stressed the importance of vaccinations as it would “make a difference” in mitigating the impacts of the expected fourth wave.