Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe said his department found during unannounced site visits at collieries that not all were equally prepared to introduce safety guidelines to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Mantashe was speaking to reporters during a briefing on Friday afternoon to update South Africans after the first full week of South Africa’s 21-day lockdown.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the lockdown to prevent a spike in the pandemic, which as of Friday had escalated to 1 505 confirmed cases.
Coal miners were allowed to continue operating through the lockdown in order to provide Eskom with generating capacity, among other things.
On Tuesday, the department paid unannounced visits to three collieries in Mpumalanga, namely Exxaro’s Matla Coal operation, Glencore’s Impunzi Colliery and Seriti’s Kriel Colliery.
"These operations are among those supplying coal to Eskom. The purpose of our visits was to assess compliance with the directives and guiding principles issued to mines on how to manage and prevent the spread of Covid-19.
"We found that the mines are not at the same level in terms of their state of readiness to respond to Covid-19. There are some pockets of excellence, while others are lagging behind. We have encouraged mines to work together, in sharing information and best practice," said Mantashe.
Mantashe reminded reporters that essential services supporting the sector – including security and related infrastructure, maintenance, water pumping and ventilation – must continue while mines supplying Eskom are operating.
He said production of gold, chrome, manganese, iron ore and other sectors would operate at scaled down levels, to allow smelters which cannot be switched on and off abruptly to remain operational.