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Returning mineworkers test positive to Covid-19 in South Africa

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25 May, 2020With the easing of the country’s lockdown and with mineworkers returning to work, tests are showing that more workers have the coronavirus. On 24 May, AngloGold Ashanti said when they tested 650 workers at Mponeng gold mine in Gauteng Province, 164 tested positive for Covid-19.

It is the same in other provinces as well. When platinum mines in Burgersfort in the Limpopo Province reopened after the relaxing of the Covid-19 regulations in South Africa, over 50 workers tested positive to the coronavirus confirming that community transmissions took place during the lockdown which began on 26 March.
When Marula Platinum Mine reopened, 19 workers tested positive to the coronavirus while Dwarsrivier mine confirmed another 30.

At Modikwa Platinum Mine, where IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), raised an alarm on the continued use of breathalyzers and biometric systems, workers have also tested positive to Covid-19.
Phillip Mankge, NUM North East regional secretary, says:

“The mines should have listened to the advice from the unions to implement regulations on rigorous screening and testing, and for employers to provide mineworkers with transport to work from their places of residence. The NUM is against the blanket approach that has been granted by the ministry of mineral resources and energy. Each mine should have been given a directive to put preventive measures in place first before being granted permission to open.”
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining says:

“Mining companies must follow strict Covid-19 health and safety protocols in their screening and testing of workers to avoid situations where mines and mining communities become clusters of Covid-19 infections.”
Since the announcement of the lockdown the NUM has been fighting the no-pay-no-work practices at some mines and violations of the lockdown by others that continued operating despite the regulations prohibiting mining. The unions are also demanding payment of full wages at mines such as Kimberley Ekapa Mining where they were reduced by 33 per cent.

NUM also fought for the rights of workers when some companies, including Kangra and Zululand Anthracite Colliery in KwaZulu-Natal province and Village Main Reef in the North West Province, tried to use the lockdown to retrench workers.
The unions have carried out campaigns to prevent infection and exposure to the coronavirus especially for workers on treatment for tuberculosis, and those on antiretroviral drugs for HIV and AIDS. The union says these diseases are common amongst mineworkers.
According to statistics released by the department of health, on 24 May the country had 22,583 positive cases, 11,100 recoveries and 429 deaths.