Picture: BLOOMBERG/JEAN-CLAUDE COUTAUSSE
Picture: BLOOMBERG/JEAN-CLAUDE COUTAUSSE

The mining industry has developed a 10-point plan aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe met the leadership of the Minerals Council SA to get an update on the sector's plans to respond to virus .

There are currently no infections that have been reported in the industry, which is one of the key sectors of the ailing SA economy. In 2018, the sector employed almost 500,000 people and contributed about R351bn to the country's GDP.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has disrupted trade, rattled investors and put markets into a tailspin. About 18.5% of SA exports go to China, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak.

At 86%, SA’s minerals make up the bulk of total trade with the Asian country.

With China’s growth expected to slow due to Covid-19, the demand for minerals is also expected to take a knock, potentially affecting commodity prices and costing the industry millions.

Mantashe’s spokesperson, Nathi Shabangu, told Business Day that the 10-point plan related to employee retention and how to deal with confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the workplace, among other things.

“The department’s health and safety inspectorate, working together with the mining companies and labour unions in the sector, are on high alert, and are testing the sector’s level of preparedness, with a focus on preventative control and managing any emerging risks for employees and communities in which mines operate,” the department said in a statement.

“The department continues to engage with the sector on, among others, use of their medical facilities for the broader communities around mining operations, as well as the use of any safe and unoccupied housing facilities for quarantine, should the need arise.”

Mantashe said: “Working together we have made great strides on the health and safety front in the sector. We are confident that our continued partnership to proactively manage the humanitarian and economic impact of this pandemic on the sector will go a long way.”

Meanwhile, the department of employment and labour said on Tuesday it had developed a “Covid-19 guideline” focused on the need for employers to isolate employees from work-related hazards and install high-efficiency air filters, encourage sick workers to stay at home, and minimise contact among workers, clients and customers by replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications such as conference calls.

The department said it has postponed its hospitality sector seminar in Durban, which was meant to educate stakeholders about compliance with the national minimum wage and other labour legislation.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za