The South African mining industry’s proactive efforts to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on the industry have resulted in its adopting a holistic approach to the pandemic, including the more recent vaccination roll-out.
This can provide benefits for exploration investment in the country, says law firm Beech Veltman CEO Warren Beech.
The mining industry has engaged with government from the outset on the vaccination roll-out to secure government buy-in so that the industry could efficiently support the roll-out at South African mines.
Beech says this endeavour “has been largely successful”.
The roll-out programme at local mines has been going well, owing to ease of access for mine employees and contractors through on-site or nearby vaccination sites, which has allowed them to be vaccinated during working hours and has, consequently, provided other further incentives to be vaccinated.
“Convenience has played a major role in the vaccination success at South Africa’s mines. There have been several debates regarding mandatory vaccination, and when vaccination uptake slows – which it may – this controversial topic will need to be addressed by the mining industry.”
Vaccination has been acknowledged by the industry as one element of the holistic approach to managing Covid-19 in the workplace, with a continued strong emphasis on aspects such as physical distancing, sanitisation, and awareness programmes.
Further, a key element of the holistic programme approach has been the approval of vaccination for the dependants of mineworkers.
Beech says it has to be acknowledged that the focus must be on not only those working at the mines but also the large communities from which employees and contractors come, including the large communities around the mines.
“By implementing a holistic programme, which includes the dependants from the host communities, the mining industry has become a good example of how a complex situation can be managed, efficiently.”
He adds that the holistic programme approach to managing Covid-19 seems to be providing all key stakeholders, including investors, with a level of comfort that the mining industry, which has shown extraordinary resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic, can continue operating safely and sustainably.
“Increasing levels of confidence in South Africa’s mining industry to manage Covid-19 at operations should have a positive effect on investment in mining, including exploration, but for this confidence to grow in relation to exploration, and for South Africa to once again become attractive for investors in exploration, all of the challenges surrounding exploration spend and investment will need to be addressed.”
Beech concludes that Covid-19 is just one factor that is affecting exploration spend, stressing that the decline in South Africa’s exploration investment over the past few years cannot be attributed to one factor.