Mantashe: Mining sector has kept coronavirus infections at bay so far

Minister Gwede Mantashe (Gallo Images/Business Day/Freddy Mavunda)
Minister Gwede Mantashe (Gallo Images/Business Day/Freddy Mavunda)
Business Day/Freddy Mavunda

So far, no coronavirus infections have been reported in the mining sector, according to a statement from the department of mineral resources and energy.

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday met with the leadership of the Minerals Council of South Africa, which represents the majority of the industry, on their plans to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Minerals Council earlier this month issued a nine-point plan to mitigate the risk of the spread of the virus at mining operations. The sector is particularly vulnerable to transmission of infectious diseases due to miners working in close proximity to each other, Fin24 previously reported.

The council's plan included employee education and health promotion; health worker readiness campaigns; access to masks, sanitisers and testing kits; influenza vaccinations and travel advisories, among other things.

Together with the department, a 10-point plan has now been developed in line with the guidelines of the Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD). It has been updated as follows: 

  • Educate employees on the virus, symptoms and prevention.
  • Follow guidelines from the NICD, educate health workers on how to manage COVID-19. Consider alternate arrangements for supply of chronic medication to reduce crowds.
  • Ensure that all health workers have access to protective clothing, gloves, masks, cleaning materials and pharmaceutical agents.
  • Vaccinate employees for seasonal influenza.
  • All employees are encouraged to know their status, get onto ARVs if positive for HIV and keep a high viral load.
  • Manage suspected cases or contacts of cases using guidelines from the NICD.
  • Liaise with the NICD on procedure to be followed for suspected and confirmed cases.
  • Only essential travel to areas with COVID-19 should be undertaken.
  • All suspected and confirmed cases in the mining industry should be reported to the NICD.
  • Monitor and stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak.

"The department's health and safety inspectorate, working together with the mining companies and labour unions in the sector, are on high alert, and are testing the sector's level of preparedness, with a focus on preventative control and managing any emerging risks for employees and communities in which mines operate," the department said.

"Working together we have made great strides on the health and safety front in the sector. We are confident that our continued partnership to proactively manage the humanitarian and economic impact of this pandemic on the sector, will go a long way," said Mantashe.

According to the department, work within the industry had begun over a month ago after the World Health Organisation announced the outbreak.

The department said it will continue engaging with the sector on allowing their medical facilities to be used for broader communities around mining operations and for the use of "safe and unoccupied" housing facilities to be used for quarantine – if such a situation should arise.

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