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Mines not complying with COVID-19 regulations will be closed, says Makhura

The premier declared the West Rand a COVID-19 hotspot after the number of cases at mines in the area exceeded 200.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura briefs the media following a meeting with Sibanye-Stillwater representatives on 27 May 2020. Picture: Kgomotso Modise/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng Premier David Makhura on Thursday said they would not hesitate to shut down any mine that is found to be non-compliant with lockdown regulations.

Makhura declared the West Rand a COVID-19 hotspot after the number of cases at mines in the area exceeded 200.

About 196 miners tested positive for the virus at the AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng Mine near Carletonville, while Sibanye-Stillwater said 11 of their employees at their West Rand and Free State operations were also infected.

Makhura said while they did not want to close mines because of their role in the economy, they should prioritise the lives of miners.

“In a situation where we have an indication that workers may be at risk at a particular mine, working with national government, we will quickly ensure that the mine is closed,” Makhura said.

Meanwhile, Moses Madondo from AngloGold Ashanti, said their health and safety standards were cleared by the Department of Mineral Resources.

“In fact, personally I’ve spent quite a lot of time with the teams and the union branches on-site, and they’ve been very pleased with the work that we are doing. And they’re working with us to further ensure that any other opportunities where they believe they may be weaknesses are addressed,” he said.

Both Madondo and Makhura agreed that it was commendable that most of their results were returned between 24 and 72 hours of testing.

IMPALA PLATINUM INSPECTION

Meanwhile, the North West Department of Health on Wednesday said it would closely monitor levels of compliance in the workplace, especially in the mining sector.

MEC Madoda Sambatha visited the Impala Platinum in Rustenburg to assess compliance with COVID-19 health and safety regulations.

The mine reported six coronavirus cases since 50% of the workers returned to their shifts after the lockdown regulations were eased.

Sambatha went on a walkabout at the mine’s hospital and assessed the conditions.

“Unlike other companies, it is the health services that are responsible for ensuring that anyone who is recalled is cleared,” Sambatha said.

The MEC said mining companies that defied regulations would be dealt with.

“All companies who are doing that, we will visit them one-by-one, and name and shame them,” he said.

Impala Platinum screened half of its employees as it prepared for the entire workforce to return on Monday.

The mining industry wanted to be allowed to operate at full capacity during level 3 of the lockdown. That was despite several workers testing positive for COVID-19 under level 4 regulations.

NUM RAISES SAFETY CONCERNS

At the same time, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) warned the move for mining companies to operate at 100% capacity would be disastrous.

Madondo said when analysing the situation, it should be considered that the mine was conducting a mass testing campaign.

“This is a case of us having gone on a massive testing campaign. We went on a wider screening and testing that’s required in terms of the regulations,” he said.

But the NUM’s general secretary David Sipunzi insisted there were still fundamental safety concerns at mines.

“We wouldn’t want to see our members losing jobs, but at the same time, we don’t want them to lose their lives. So, in as much as we try to get to normal mining operations, precautions must be taken,” Sipunzi said.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.