A miner drills at Lonmin’s Saffy platinum mine. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
A miner drills at Lonmin’s Saffy platinum mine. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

SA’s mines, which are slowly returning to work as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased, have recorded six deaths related to the pandemic.

Mines were shut down from March 27 as the government implemented a stringent lockdown of the economy to curtail the spread of the virus. Since the start of June, mines have been granted permission to return to full production.

So far, about 273,000 out of a 450,000 workforce have returned to the mines and are being screened daily, entailing taking temperatures and answering questions to identify those who need testing.

The industry has conducted 15,994 tests and 1,796 people have been found positive with more than a third had recovered.

However, the Minerals Council SA reported on Thursday six mine workers had died from Covid-19 to date.

Two of these people had contracted the virus at home and died without being back at work, said Thuthula Balfour, the council’s head of health, adding it is too soon to indicate a pattern as to which mines and which commodities are the hot-spots.

Of the six cases, two were in gold, three in platinum and one in quarrying. All six had underlying conditions that made them susceptible to developing Covid-19.

In April, SA’s mines were at 52% of production capacity, but this was shortly after the start of the lockdown. More mines have reopened since then as regulations were eased.

seccombea@businesslive.co.za