Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe said
his department found during unannounced site visits at collieries that not all were
equally prepared to introduce safety guidelines to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Mantashe was speaking to reporters during a briefing on
Friday afternoon to update South Africans after the first full week of South
Africa’s 21-day lockdown.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the lockdown to prevent a
spike in the pandemic, which as of Friday had escalated to 1 505 confirmed
Coal miners were allowed to continue operating through the
lockdown in order to provide Eskom with generating capacity, among other things.
On Tuesday, the department paid unannounced visits to three
collieries in Mpumalanga, namely Exxaro’s Matla Coal operation, Glencore’s
Impunzi Colliery and Seriti’s Kriel Colliery.
“These operations are among those supplying coal to Eskom.
The purpose of our visits was to assess compliance with the directives and
guiding principles issued to mines on how to manage and prevent the spread of
“We found that the mines are not at the same level in
terms of their state of readiness to respond to Covid-19. There are some
pockets of excellence, while others are lagging behind. We have encouraged
mines to work together, in sharing information and best practice,” said
Mantashe reminded reporters that essential services supporting
the sector – including security and related infrastructure, maintenance, water
pumping and ventilation – must continue while mines supplying Eskom are
He said production of gold, chrome, manganese, iron ore and
other sectors would operate at scaled down levels, to allow smelters which
cannot be switched on and off abruptly to remain operational.