JOHANNESBURG – Comment on when mining industry operations will resume is premature but what is certain is that when resumption does occur, it will not be business as usual, Minerals Council South Africa said on Thursday.

Noting reports on the resumption of mining operations after 16 April, Minerals Council South Africa stated that resumption would depend on decisions that government as a whole would take on the approach to be taken at the end of the current lockdown period and that it would be within a holistic view of the entire economy.

Both itself and its members had been fully supportive of the current lockdown and the bulk of industry operations had been shut down.

Where exemptions occurred, these had been sanctioned by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) under operating principles that were focussed on employee health as the priority.

In recent days, it had been engaging with the DMRE and unions to establish a way forward on how to work safely under the constraints of Covid-19.

The disease would likely be with the country for some months yet and it was the industry’s hope that the lockdown, which had come at great expense and sacrifice to so many South Africans, had indeed had the effect of flattening the curve.

“Certainly, initial indications were that it has done so,” the council stated in its release to Mining Weekly.

At the very least, the lockdown would give the country and companies time to put in place improved measures to proceed under our new reality.

The mining sector would continue to abide by the positions taken by government in this regard.

When operations did resume, the industry would be well-placed to enter into the new phase of operating in a Covid-19-constrained environment.

The council’s approach to dealing with Covid-19 would continue to be risk-based, as was the case before the lockdown.

Employee health would be assessed at the resumption of operations in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols, including assessment of possible symptoms, travel history and recent contacts. Proper physical distancing and face covers in some circumstances would be adhered to during this time.

Similarly, mining operations would scale up appropriately depending on the nature of the operation, the availability of employees, appropriate restart procedures and the nature of the spread of the epidemic.

The priority for all operations would be to:

  • equip employees with the knowledge and means to be able to protect themselves and their families;
  • put in place the systems and standard operating procedures that applied best practice knowledge on hygiene and physical distancing;
  • screen and detect employees who were ill, and provide for quarantine facilities where necessary; and
  • to provide medical care for employees, and where possible, for families and communities.

The Minerals Council had developed standard operating procedures for the return to work and for measures at work.

These were aligned with the guidance and stipulations of the WHO, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, the Department of Health, and the DMRE.

The industry’s approach remained an integrated holistic approach that recognised that fighting this disease was a national and industry imperative.

It recognised the industry’s role as a significant contributor to the economy and would seek to make its contribution as best it could in the new reality being faced –