JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Minerals Council South Africa on Thursday welcomed the amendments to the Disaster Management Act regulations as they pertain to mining.
These regulations allow a phase-up in mining capacity to 50% during the lockdown period, but with all the preventative and mitigating controls in place to fight Covid-19.
The council said it was completely aligned with the letter and the spirit of the amendments insofar as they prioritise the health and safety of those employees returning to work, and in so doing, also protecting the health of their communities.
It had in place a ten-point plan, based on a risk-based approach, which was designed to ensure a preventative and mitigating approach to fighting Covid-19, which was implemented prior to the current lockdown.
Subsequently, it had finalised a standard operating procedure (SOP), which encompassed all the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s principles, to manage the phased build-up of mining operations, and the ongoing efforts to fight Covid-19 in the workplace and in communities.
Given the mining sector’s comprehensive healthcare infrastructure, the industry was well equipped to screen, test and manage virus positive employees; prevent infection and manage the sanitising of work areas and transport; help with quarantine and health care facilities; provide proper personal protective equipment and enable physical distancing.
The council and organised labour had engaged on the SOP and there was broad alignment, the news release to Mining Weekly stated.
At the same time, it was crucial for South Africa’s economy to be gradually restarted during and after the Covid-19 lockdown.
This meant a phased process of increasing production but ensuring all the preventative and mitigating controls were in place in parallel. This would help preserve the economy, while at the same time fighting Covid-19 in a systematic manner.
“We commit the industry to the prioritisation of health and safety of employees as this phase-in gathers steam, with all the preventative and mitigating controls to fight Covid-19 in place.
"It’s our view that government has adopted a pragmatic and practical approach to fighting the pandemic and enabling the economy to survive the crisis. We commit to working hard with government and organised labour in this national effort,” Minerals Council CEO Roger Baxter said.
The SOP provided guidelines for the management of healthcare workers and employees returning to work during and at the end of the lockdown period. These guidelines addressed screening, testing, possible exposure to Covid-19 and subsequent illness, isolation and quarantine, in addition to the usual return to work procedures of the industry, he added.
Mineral Resources and Energy Portfolio Committee chairperson Sahlulele Luzipo has appealed to mining companies to adhere to the national lockdown regulations and called on the law enforcement agencies to act decisively on those who contravened the National Disaster Act regulations, especially major mining companies.
Luzipo welcomed an agreement between the National Union of Mineworkers and Harmony Gold to resume operations after the lockdown.