Foreign-based mine workers to begin returning to South Africa: Minerals Council

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A mine worker is shown his temperature, measured ahead of his shift, during a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at a mine of Sibanye-Stillwater company in Carletonville, South Africa, May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
FILE PHOTO: A mine worker is shown his temperature, measured ahead of his shift, during a nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, at a mine of Sibanye-Stillwater company in Carletonville, South Africa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

An estimated 1,100 foreign-based employees for gold and platinum companies in South Africa are scheduled to begin returning to the country as it continues with its phased re-opening economy.

The Minerals Council confirmed that the employees will come through designated points of entry: Lebombo (Mozambique), Maseru Bridge (Lesotho) and Oshoek (Eswatini) border posts.

The 1,100 employees are a fraction of an estimated 12,500-strong workforce which is expected to return in due course to kick start the sector’s operations and growth.

South Africa, Africa’s most industrialised economy, has suffered significant economic effects since the onset of the pandemic, and the mining sector was not immune to them. South Africa is one of the largest producers of gold and diamonds in the world and the largest producer of platinum and chrome.

Miners are yet to fully quantify the financial impact of the pandemic on the industry.

In March, South Africa shut down mines across the country after the government announced a nationwide lockdown. In May, operations at Mponeng mine, the world’s deepest mine, were temporarily suspended after more than 160 COVID-19 cases were reported there.

Since the beginning of May, open-cast mines have been allowed to work at full capacity again while underground mines were allowed to operate at half capacity.

Despite this authorisation, apprehension remains about the safety and welfare of miners as the coronavirus continues to spread fast across the country.

At least 679 miners have tested positive with one death in the mining sector, according to the Council.

The Council has previously stated that it was working on ways to avoid having the sector permanent damage.

In June, the Council added that there were more than 230,000 miners currently back at work. Each and every one of these mineworkers was screened on their first return to work after the lockdown, and every worker was screened for the virus prior to every shift they work.

Despite the mining industry being an epicentre for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV and its working conditions, the Council said it was wrong to label the sector as an “epicenter” of COVID-19.

As of July 6, South Africa has reported 205,721 COVID-19 cases with 3,310 deaths and 97,848 recoveries.

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