South Africa has allowed mining companies to resume operations at half their normal capacity as the government takes its first steps to ease a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
All mining operations must observe strict health protocols, including screening and testing workers for coronavirus, Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Mines Minister Gwede Mantashe said in a televised briefing. The government is concerned about the risks of idling South Africa’s deep level mines for much longer, Mantashe said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa extended a 21-day lockdown by two weeks to the end of this month. A prolonged shutdown threatens marginal mines, putting more than 45,000 jobs at risk, a lobby group for South Africa’s largest producers said late on Wednesday.
Read also: South Africa faces 45,000 job losses on lockdown.
We must allow a “phased recall of workers” as mines ramp up production, said Mantashe, adding that the industry may only be fully operational by next month. “This will help minimize risk of accidents and disasters and it will also help sustain the infrastructure in those mines.”
The government is also easing some sanitation requirements on imported goods and has also ordered fuel refineries to ramp up output as the economy restarts. Some lockdown restrictions may stay beyond April 30, Dlamini-Zuma said.
(By Felix Njini and Mike Cohen, with assistance from Paul Burkhardt)