Party wants mines shut after number of SA miners infected with Covid-19 increases
Mining companies in the country were permitted to resume 50% of their operations under lockdown on level four, after Mineral Resources and Energy minister Gwede Mantashe took into account the risks miners might face if mining sites remained completely shut down for a longer period of time.
The party said that despite the ruling that was made where minimum guidelines to contain the spread of the virus in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act were issued by the department, it had still not stopped the pandemic from reaching mining companies.
Mantashe recently announced that 384 people in the mining sector had tested positive for the virus out of the 4600 tested in Gauteng, North West and Limpopo.
The party also expressed their concerns with mining communities.
“Millions of working-class people living near mining operations still do not have access to basic amenities such as water, proper sanitation and adequate housing. Already in a vulnerable position, dealing with the spread of Covid-19 exacerbates this when regular hand-washing, disinfection of the living environment and physical distancing is necessary,” said the organisation in a statement.
The department said it had been engaged in meaningful discussions with stakeholders in the mining and energy portfolio. “These engagements are aimed at proactively managing issues directly affecting these industries while we save lives and protect livelihoods. It is also on record that the measures taken by the government are aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus, with an understanding that they would not be able to stop it.”
The department reiterated that it had gazetted guidelines after receiving input from various stakeholders, including community representatives.
“This is to ensure that persons at mines are protected from the transmission of the virus at the workplace and, where reasonably practicable, in their communities.”
However, the party said the minimum guidelines published by the department did not deal with the necessary action to combat the spread of Covid-19 in mining communities.
The party has further vowed to pressure the government to shut down mining operations until widespread consultation with everyone takes place, thorough risk assessment and disinfection of mining workplace is prioritised and to fight for formerly employed elderly mine workers battling to get their compensation for occupational health.