As mining companies prepare to resume with operations, the Department of Mineral Resources is warning that they must implement precautionary measures to protect workers from COVID-19, or face harsh consequences.
Under the amended lockdown regulations, the companies are allowed to restart production at 50% capacity.
But they must adhere to strict regulations, which include rigorous screening and testing, the provision of quarantine facilities for employees who test positive for the virus, and arrangements to transport employees.
On Friday, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said it would not encourage its members to return to work unless a national task team consisting of the chief inspector of mines, the Chamber of Mines, trade unions and the Department of Health was formed.
The union has even threatened to go to court to force government to establish the body.
Union President Joseph Mathunjwa said: “We fully support the return to work after proper precautionary measures are in place. But, if there is no such, we will not allow our members to put their lives in danger.”
Mineral resources director-general Advocate Thabo Mokoena said they expected companies to look out for workers.
“The Mine Health and Safety Act is still applicable. Mining companies know what will be the consequences if they don’t comply with the requirements of the law.”
Amcu has called for an urgent coronavirus summit to deal with the safety of workers in the mining sector.
The union was responding to the announcement by government that mining companies can restart production at half of their capacity over the next two weeks.
This as part of a plan to slowly relax COVID-19 related lockdown regulations.
Mathunjwa said mining companies could not be trusted to protect workers from the virus.
“We’ve written to all the CEOs to call an urgent coronavirus summit to deal with these issues, in order to avoid this knee jerk approach by them chasing profits [and] putting pressure on government and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy unnecessarily .”
Meanwhile, Impala Platinum’s chief executive officer at Rustenburg operations Mark Munroe has been released on R60,000 bail.
He appeared in the Bafokeng Magistrates Court on Friday following allegations that the company contravened lockdown regulations.