Coal and heavy minerals mining major Exxaro has announced a R19.7-million, five-year tuberculosis (TB) initiative at its Grootegeluk mine in the Waterberg district, in Limpopo.
The initiative will benefit mine employees and the host community and will focus on home-based healthcare, preventive care and treating the most vulnerable community members first.
In response to the need for TB support, Exxaro has partnered with diversified mining major Anglo American, as well as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), engineering multinational Zutari and humanitarian organisation World Vision to form the Impact Catalyst. Together, the partners have proposed a far-reaching programme to support optimal primary healthcare in mining communities that are experiencing increasing HIV and TB infections.
The team had contracted the University of Pretoria’s (UP's) Community-Oriented Primary Care (COPC) Research Unit to identify high-prevalence communities that need healthcare aid. Waterberg was pinpointed as one such community battling an HIV and TB crisis – with the two diseases cited as the leading causes of death among men and women in the 25 to 64 age group.
“Considering Grootegeluk – one of Exxaro’s largest mining operations – is hosted in this region, Exxaro felt a strong responsibility to step in and assist. As a proud corporate citizen, Exxaro invests significantly in improving the quality of life for the communities that surround its mines, fostering sustainable societies that can flourish.
"Fittingly, the objective of the organisation’s TB initiative is to change the health status, wellbeing and productivity of these communities – starting with Waterberg,” says Exxaro group manager for safety and health Dr Joseph Matjila.
The project will be run by Exxaro and UP, with a gradual reduction in direct intervention by the COPC research unit over the five-year period.
Present in all countries and age groups, the bacterial disease is one of the top ten causes of death worldwide and the leading cause from a single infectious agent. According to the World Health Organisation, South Africa is considered a high TB-burden country and, along with seven other countries, accounted for two-thirds of all new TB cases in 2019.
“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the seriousness of health and wellbeing and we are committed to addressing the challenges of access to quality and affordable healthcare for our people. This extends beyond our employees and contractors and filters into our host communities throughout the country.
“Our goal is to ensure that our people are not merely fit for work, but fit for life and all its challenges. Over the years, we have created a proactive culture where our employees take responsibility for their own health and feel empowered to initiate medical assessments, health education and testing.
"We want to do the same thing in our communities, changing the way people think about their health status and putting the power back in their hands to take control of their lives,” Matjila says.