JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – As calls go out for mining to resume on April 17 or face serious setback, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has found excellent Covid-19 compliance by some coal mines that have been allowed to stay open to supply coal to Eskom – but inadequate response to directives by others.
The Minister undertook unannounced visits to collieries in Mpumalanga last week to assess the extent to which mines are observing the directives and guiding principles issued to mines to prevent the spread of the virus.
He has been working with key stakeholders in the minerals and energy portfolio to ensure compliance with the gazetted lockdown regulations.
“We found that the mines are not at the same level in terms of their state of readiness to respond to Covid-19. There are some pockets of excellence, while others are lagging behind. We have encouraged mines to work together, in sharing information and best practice,” the Minister stated.
Employees at some mining companies have also brought non-adherence to the attention of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), which has given its inspectors the task of ensuring compliance during this 21-day lockdown period.
Scheduled and unannounced visits to mines still operating have been intensified.
“We are not doing this to be punitive, but with the primary objective of safeguarding the lives of employees, suppliers, contractors and all those they will come into contact with during this period,” Mantashe stated in a release to Mining Weekly.
“While we understand the negative impact that the virus will have on the mining and energy sectors, we must appreciate that this is not the time to put profits ahead of health and safety. Zero harm remains a priority, even more so during this time,” the Minister stated.
A number of holders of mining rights have applied to the DMRE for permission to continue operating, although at significantly reduced levels and in line with the categorisation of essential goods and services in the disaster management regulations, which were amended last week.
ENERGY AND SECURITY OF FUEL SUPPLY
Besides mines being allowed to continue to ensure the supply of energy coal to Eskom, which has not found it necessary to load-shed during the period, the Minister said transport fuel supply was also meeting demand, even though the Engen refinery in Durban and the Astron refinery in Cape Town had been shut down.
Steps were also being taken to reverse the enforced closure of some convenience stores on the forecourts of filling stations as these stores also provide food declared essential.
However, the Minister emphasised the importance of these forecourt stores following hygiene and consumer protection directives, for which guidelines would be issued to ensure that these stores enhanced security and accessibility of essential goods and services.
Mantashe disclosed three confirmed Covid-19 cases in the mining and energy sectors, one each in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Western Cape.
“We encourage employers and unions in these industries to continue engaging on issues directly affecting employees and proactively manage them. This should be done in the interests of ensuring employee health and safety, as well as ensuring that companies are able to meet their obligations during this time,” he stated.
Follow-up meetings with employers and unions are scheduled to take place this week.