How South African mines are responding to lockdown

South African mining companies are supporting the President's precautionary measures to stop Covid-19.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a 21-day lockdown in response to the ongoing Covid-19 situation starting at midnight on Thursday 26 March. In response to the president’s statement, companies all over South Africa are implementing plans to ensure business continuity.

Wescoal Holdings

Being a mining service, Wescoal’s operations are included as essential service in South Africa and are to remain operational during lockdown. Wescoal supplies coal to other essential services like hospitals through its trading business. Because of this, it is also an essential service-provider in the electricity and energy space. 

While core, essential functions in the organisation will be required to continue working throughout the lockdown, the company said that it has undertaken to act responsibly and to do its part in preventing further spread of the virus by implementing business continuity measures together with its mining contractors across the breadth of its operations. 

These include controls and protocols to ensure the health and safety of all staff on Wescoal sites, without any business interruptions using technologies to facilitate operational and head office meetings and to work remotely as appropriate, including:

  • Support functions will be required to work remotely as well as alternate shifts as required
  • Inter-provincial travellers will be required to work remotely from home
  • Critical meetings will only take place online and non-critical meetings will be cancelled
  • Formal plans with contractors addressing Covid-19 preventative measures including sanitisation and hygiene best-practices to be implemented immediately
  • Wescoal also said that it is keeping in frequent and close contact with Eskom.

Eastern Platinum

Eastern Platinum will temporarily close all its operations in South Africa, including the current re-mining operations at Crocodile River Mine, except for some critical underground care and maintenance activities where the company will seek an exception.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, Eastern Platinum has produced risk assessments and adopted appropriate new and updated procedures to ensure as best as possible to maintain a safe place for its employees and the communities in which it operates.

African Rainbow Minerals

African Rainbow Minerals has also committed to fully complying with the measures announced by the president.

The company said that it is engaging with the government and other stakeholders to ensure compliance with the government’s decision, and has prepared a responsible and effective plan for temporary care and maintenance at all its operations. 

The mining company added that it is actively managing the new and increased risks that the global pandemic presents to its business and its operating environment.

Gold Fields

Similarly, Gold Fields has expressed its support of the measures and policies to curb the Covid-19 pandemic implemented by the countries in which it operates.

Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland said: 

“The world finds itself facing an unprecedented situation – the Covid-19 pandemic has forced governments across the globe to take decisive actions to safeguard the lives of their people. Gold Fields is fully committed to first and foremost protecting the health and safety of our people and communities, and supports all governments’ efforts to contain the spread of the virus.”

Nick added that the nature and extent of incidences of infections at our global operations will determine the company’s action with regards to continued operations at the mine sites. 

The South Deep mine in South Africa will be safely put on care and maintenance as from 27 March. South Deep is seeking permission from the regulator for the following activities to continue: pumping, security, essential plant maintenance, managerial oversight and medical services. Employees who will be providing these essential services will be accommodated in the company’s residences. The majority of employees will be sent home as from Thursday and will continue to receive their base pay during the 21-day lockdown period. Where possible, select employees will work from home. Based on the current run-rate, the 21-day lockdown is expected to result in 500kg of lost production at South Deep.

Tharisa

As members of the Minerals Council, mineral exploration company Tharisa will also be guided by the best practice frameworks put in place for the industry.

The company said in a statement that it will proceed with a systematic process of placing its assets on care and maintenance while ensuring both the health and wellbeing of its employees, and that its assets are protected.

Mining will be suspended post the night shift on Wednesday 25 March and the plants will be placed on care and maintenance on Thursday 26 March.

The company has also put in detailed care and maintenance procedures for this period that will ensure start-up will be efficient post the lockdown. Existing chrome ore shipments will continue as long as permissible. PMG concentrates produced will be delivered prior to shut down.

Ongoing projects will be suspended until 17 April.