Impala Platinum (Implats) has temporarily shut down its
Marula mine in Limpopo Province after finding a “cluster” of positive
Covid-19 cases.

In a statement on Saturday, the company said the decision
had been taken following “stringent and comprehensive screening, testing and
tracing protocols” that identified 19 positive cases, all of whom were
asymptomatic.

All the employees have been isolated and visited by
Department of Health officials at the quarantine site.

“Of these cases, 14 were identified as a result of proactive
testing of employees returning to work. None of these employees had started
work at the mine,” Implats said. Of the remaining five, one was the
primary contact and the remaining four were found through contact tracing.

But the company expressed concern that there could be a
higher incidence of Covid-19 than initially thought.

“Significantly, 17 of the confirmed cases reside
locally, suggesting the prevalence of Covid-19 among local communities is far
higher than the company’s initial estimates had indicated,” Implats said.  

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy recently
published mandatory health and safety guidelines for the mining sector for
managing the coronavirus pandemic within the workplace.

The code of practice was developed following a Labour Court
order in a case that had been brought by the Association of Mineworkers and
Construction Union (AMCU). According to the guidelines, companies must, among
other precautions, conduct a risk-based assessment of employees as they return
to work.

Employees who show signs of infection must be screened and
isolated, while work areas, transport facilities and mine accommodation must be
disinfected.

Union representatives had voiced concerns over the safety of
mineworkers as they return to work during the pandemic.

CEO Nico Muller said Implats “fully” supported
government’s “decisive action” to mitigate the impact of the
coronavirus outbreak, and that the company would continue to comply with government
and industry guidelines, as well as company initiatives.

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