Minerals Council publishes second field guide on Covid-19 safety behaviour

16th September 2020 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Creamer Media Online Writer

The Mineral Council South Africa on September 16 launched its Beyond the Mine Gate Field Guide.

The guide is aimed at empowering employees in the sector as agents of change, by promoting and supporting healthy and safe behaviour within communities.

The field guide has been compiled with a specific focus on Covid-19-related safety guidance that can be implemented away from the workplace. 

The follows the publication of the Minerals Council’s first field guide in July, which was called Within the Mine Gate Field Guide and was aimed at re-enforcing behaviours that support healthy and safe ways of working in the context of Covid-19.

Both field guides were developed under the auspices of the CEO Zero Harm Forum, as well as in close collaboration with mining companies and export organisations around the world.

Minerals Council health head Dr Thuthula Balfour comments that the mining industry recognises that, like the industry, its employees are also part of communities.

“Therefore, our efforts to shift behaviour to limit the spread of Covid-19 need to extend beyond the mine gate. By providing employees with knowledge and the right skills and capabilities, they become agents of change in our communities,” she states.

The Beyond the Mine Gate Field Guide helps to identify the prevalence of transmissions within mining communities through a geographic

information mapping system platform; specific behaviours that help to minimise the transmission of Covid-19 in communities; measures to improve the community response to Covid-19; and address the specific behaviours identified.

The field guide also touches on some of the burning issues facing communities, such as stigmatisation and gender-based violence during these times of crisis.

Meanwhile, forming part of the Minerals Council’s fight against Covid-19 is the Oxygen is Life initiative, which involves a collaboration between government, the council and mining companies to better equip medical facilities with oxygen and oxygen-related products in the Eastern Cape.

Minerals Council and a number of its members had contributed R4.7-million by mid-August towards oxygen and oxygen-related products for the Eastern Cape to treat people who become seriously ill from Covid-19.

This followed after the Minerals Council team identified the province as one with a huge, impending need for this kind of support a few months ago.

Funds have been spent on oxygen-related products, such as oxygen tanks, concentrators and products within the oxygen value chain, such as rebreather masks, continuous positive airway pressure ventilators, oxygen flow meters, oxygen regulators, re-breathable masks and oxygen nasal cannulas.

The Minerals Council facilitated the supply of 450 fingerprint pulse oximeters, with 900 batteries, 200 oxygen regulators and 30 000 nasal cannulas, to date.

Balfour confirms that more products are on order, but that these are slow to be delivered owing to massive international shortages.

The Eastern Cape province stands out as a mining-affected province – although it lacks mines, it has historically been a primary labour-sending province. About 61 000 mining employees originate from the Eastern Cape, equivalent to about 15% of the Mineral Council members’ workforce.

Coupled with this, it is also the poorest province in the country and suffers from a lack of infrastructure, while being known to be under-resourced in terms of healthcare facilities, supplies and personnel.

The Minerals Council previously determined that two districts within the province – Chris Hani and OR Tambo – particularly need support based on their profiles as regions from which many employees have been drawn. Other districts are also being supported nonetheless. 

Contributors to the Oxygen is Life initiative include African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American (representing De Beers, Kumba Iron Ore, Anglo American Coal and Anglo American Platinum), AngloGold Ashanti, Exxaro Resources, Fraser Alexander, Glencore Alloys, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Impala Platinum, Northam Platinum, Royal Bafokeng Platinum, Seriti Resources and Sibanye-Stillwater.

Speaking on behalf of the Eastern Cape government, outgoing provincial Department of Health head Thobile Mbengashe said during a media briefing on September 16 that the province had a long history of lacking key infrastructure to manage respiratory problems.

He noted that, beyond Covid-19, the oxygen-related equipment would help manage the post-mining diseases, such as tuberculosis and silicosis, that are a prevalent problem in the province among older mineworkers.

Mbengashe stated that the funds from the mining companies, as well as contributions from the national Solidarity Fund, had helped to establish 2 000 Covid-19-repurposed facilities and 400 field hospital beds in the province, which all have new oxygen-related equipment.

The donations enabled the Eastern Cape to have 85 hospitals with sufficient oxygen supply.

Balfour said during the media briefing that the mining industry had taken intensive efforts to address the impact of the pandemic, including the provision of hospitals, medical facilities, isolation facilities, intensive community support and outreach programmes. In the Eastern Cape; however, oxygen relief stood out as a pertinent need.

“For many people who become severely ill from Covid-19, oxygen is what is most needed and represents life,” she added.