NATIONAL NEWS - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) raised their concern after 196 Covid-19 positive cases were reported at the AngloGold Ashanti Mponeng mine near Carletonville, west of Johannesburg.
NUM expressed serious concerns after the mines were allowed to operate at 50% by the department of mineral resources and energy.
In a statement, the union said there were also ten Covid-19 positive cases reported at Moab Khutsong mine in Matlosana, North West.
“Our reasoning behind this was informed by the issue of compliance, which was and is still highly compromised by the mines. And we further called upon the regulator at the department to stop with immediate effect all this operation until all safety measures were adhered to,” the union said on Tuesday.
NUM said it was opposed to the blanket approach because the union wanted the mines to strictly adhere to Covid-19 regulations that included screening, testing, transportation, personal protective equipment (PPE) to health workers and quarantine places.
“We felt that those regulations should be a priority to all mining companies before the granting of an exemption to resume operation. Social distancing was not even observed during the time.
“The NUM now feels vindicated that we were correct when we opposed the mines to operate at 50%. There is now an outbreak of the virus in the mining industry and the infections are increasing at an alarming rate.
“Where is the regulatory department during this time of calamity in the mining industry?” the union asked.
The union suggested that all mining operations that have a high number of Covid-19 infections to be temporarily closed until the situation was remedied.
It further said all workers must be paid 100% of their salaries during the temporary closure of the affected mines and all mine managers whose companies were not adhering to the Covid-19 regulations must be arrested.
“We will not allow a situation where our members and other workers are sacrificed for profits by these heartless and evil mining companies.
“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,” NUM added.
The union continued to say it viewed the occupational health and safety as a matter of workers’ rights and employers’ responsibilities and that mining companies have the responsibility to ensure safe and healthy workplaces.
“The NUM has always insisted on the right to participate in the decision-making on what controls will be implemented,” the union said.
The union also commended the Limpopo government with their quick response in dealing with Covid-19 positive cases at Marula mine, Dwalsrivivier and other mines in the province.
“The MEC of health, Phophi Ramathuba is hands-on and is doing a fantastic job,” it said.
(Compiled by Molefe Seeletsa)