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How To Safeguard Mining Employees In A COVID-19 World?

The mining industry was celebrated at the recent African Mining Indaba 2021 as a resilient and successful industry that has an important role to play in rebooting South Africa’s economy. President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted that in the midst of the disruption caused by the pandemic, South African mining has shown “tremendous resilience and ability to come back”. 

Ramaphosa emphasised the importance of health and safety in this volatile and dangerous industry. “A safe and healthy modern mining sector is one that is competitive, attractive for investment, but that is also technologically innovative,” he said.

A travel management company (TMC) has an important role to play in helping mining companies develop a comprehensive risk management and Duty of Care plan, says Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller.

“Employee health and safety is of paramount importance in the mining industry,” says Desai. “Miners often need to reach remote areas and operate under higher risk conditions. As mining organisations often operate in volatile environments, mitigating travel risks and safeguarding your travellers is critical.”

To ensure your duty of care responsibilities are being fulfilled, a TMC worth its salt will be able to enhance pre-trip processes and put a plan in place for quickly and safely responding to anything affecting travellers on the go.

Desai explains that the mining industry is a unique industry that has very specific travel requirements. “The reality is that managing the complex travel requirements of mining companies requires expertise,” he says. “Mining sites can be hazardous and difficult to access, rostering crew changes challenging, accommodation options limited, and car hire problematic due to site regulations.”

In 2020, COVID-19 added an extra layer of complexity to an already difficult industry. “As a TMC, you need to be able to think on your feet. You might have found a solution to a problem, but the next day – or the next hour – some government somewhere changes a rule, and you have to start over,” says Desai.

Travel consultants not only need to be available 24/7 to share real-time travel alerts with mining travellers, but they also need to be aware of crew rotations and management. “Corporate Traveller has long-standing experience managing travel for mining companies,” he says.

In the event that an incident does occur, it is important to be able to locate mining travellers as quickly and effortlessly as possible. “It is crucial that your TMC has access to traveller tracking and risk maps, so that it’s possible to proactively check up on where your travellers are (or where they’re next planning to be) should you need to get in touch,” he says.

Budget is another important component of organising travel for mining companies. Even though, the mining industry has performed exceptionally well and even recorded 288% growth in the third quarter of 2020, many mining companies are tightening the purse strings in light of the uncertainty COVID-19 brings about.

The TMC’s role is to find the right balance between controlling travel spend while not affecting the traveller’s experience, according to Desai. “You don’t want to force employees to use discount airlines, budget hotels or cheap cars in order to save a few bucks,” he says. “Instead, it’s important to look at travel holistically and create efficiencies wherever possible.” Desai concludes: “The Mining Indaba has shown that the mining and quarrying industries continue to be among the biggest contributors to GDP growth in Q3 2020. As a TMC, we are proud to be able to contribute towards a safe and healthy mining sector that is competitive and attractive for investment.”