JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – More border openings are wanted for returning foreign mineworkers.
As of Thursday last week, not a single foreign mineworker had re-entered South Africa from neighbouring foreign countries.
“Only a limited number of border posts are open,” Minerals Council South Africa environment, health and legacies senior executive Nikisi Lesufi said during a virtual media conference call in which Mining Weekly took part. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
Lesufi said that the volume of returning mineworkers was such that the opening of more border posts was wanted.
Four thousand workers were needing to re-enter South Africa from Mozambique through one border post, and three times more, 12 000, from Lesotho, also through one border post.
“If the numbers are spread equitably among the border posts, then we’ll have a faster process of the workers going through. That’s why we’re discussing the possibility of further ports of entry being opened to prevent congestion and allow greater numbers of workers to go through the borders at any one time," Lesufi said.
Minerals Council had been expecting the first mineworkers to come through during the course of last week.
“But we’ve not been able to achieve that because of the complexity of the issues, or too few border posts being opened. The plan now is to continue doing what we’ve been doing and see if we can’t have the first couple of mineworkers coming through during the course of this week,” Lesufi said.
Training of teams in neighbouring countries was being undertaken to prepare the foreign mineworkers for their return. Accommodation facilities were also being sought in neighbouring countries while discussions continued with South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs on the borders that could be used for foreign mineworker re-entry.
The congestion at the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia border post has seen up to 300 trucks standing idle, either on their way to Maputo with full loads, or wanting to return to South Africa.
“The logistics around rail and road was a big issue and has worsened and we’re working very hard to try and fix that,” said Minerals Council South Africa chief economist Henk Langenhoven.
“We really need to stagger transportation within Mozambique itself and the process of returning mineworkers going through the border,” said Lesufi.
On the issue of some foreign mineworkers being in South Africa, Lesufi said: “As far as we’re aware, the only foreign workers who are at work are those workers who did not go home during the lockdown. All other workers that left the country, and are due to return, are still in their home countries.”
The 240 000 mineworkers back at work represents about 55% of employees.
Each and every one of these mineworkers had been screened for Covid-19 on their return to work and again prior to going on each shift.
“Any miner showing any symptoms or who is exposed to someone known to be Covid-19 positive is sent for testing in line with the protocols of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases,” Minerals Council South Africa public affairs and transformation senior executive Tebello Chabana said.